HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Most kids land in foster care due to child abuse or neglect, but some are there only because their parents can’t provide adequate housing. In other words, because they’re poor.

“The only thing that’s keeping these children from their parents is an adequate living condition,” said child advocate Robin Rosenberg.

At a recent meeting of the Hillsborough Children’s Board, Stephanie Bergen from the Florida Attorney General’s Office counted 40 foster kids in Hillsborough County who are separated from their parents due to poverty and nothing else.

“What Stephanie is talking about is kids who’ve been in foster care for more than 15 months and the only thing that’s keeping them from going home is the lack of housing for their parents,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a community-wide crisis. It’s a statewide crisis.”

Rosenberg says there are 125 foster kids statewide in the same situation. Not only does that tear families apart, but it also costs taxpayers many times more to provide foster care than affordable housing. She represents one family that costs a fortune to keep in foster care.

“$17,000 a month because you pay, in this case it’s a little less than $100 a day, per child. Six kids a month,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg says the money stream for affordable housing can’t be mingled with foster care so there is no clear answer to the problem.

“There’s not really a clean mechanism to say to that family, ‘here we can give you a subsidized apartment. We can help you with your childcare, after care expenses,'” Rosenberg said.

So, this Christmas dozens of foster kids in Hillsborough County will sleep in strangers’ homes or group settings, not because of abuse or neglect, but simply because their own parents can’t afford to put a roof over their heads.

And taxpayers will pay royally for it.

“It’s a tragedy for the children. They really suffer.”

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