Panel OKs increase in foster care funding, with a catch

HELENA, MOnt. - A budget panel has approved a $6 million increase over the next two years for Montana to deal with the growing number of children in foster care.

But the $16 million approved Friday by the Joint Subcommittee on Health and Human Services comes with caveats.

It would be a one-time only appropriation. Republicans leading the panel say they want to see the department come up with a strategy by 2019 to address the problem.

Rep. Marilyn Ryan of Missoula and Sen. Mary Caferro of Helena, both Democrats, voted against the restriction. Ryan says the department needs funding stability to handle the crisis in foster care.

There are more than 3,400 children in the state's foster care system, which is a record.

The subcommittee's vote is only the first step in the session's lengthy budget negotiation process.

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