Providing foster care services to children is notoriously expensive for Guilford County government, and, this year, that care is turning out to be even more expensive than anticipated.

The Social Services Division of the Guilford County Health and Human Services Department has come to the county commissioners to get millions more in funding for the Foster Care Room and Board item in the county’s fiscal year 2023-2024 budget, which took effect on July 1.

According to information provided to the commissioners by Social Services, based on current spending levels and trends so far this year, county social services staff is projecting that the total cost for Foster Care Room and Board in fiscal year 2023-2024 will be an eye-opening $13 million.  That’s $5 million more than planned. Just six months ago, $8 million was allocated for this purpose in the 2023-2024 budget.

So how could social services staff and budget planners – who usually err on the side of caution and have money left over at the end of the financial year – been so off the mark?

Here’s the official explanation staff provided the county commissioners: “These increases in expense are due to a combination of factors including increased room and board rates from group home and enhanced placement vendors, an overall increase in the number of children in care, an increase in the number of children in higher level or more specialized placements, and a shift of partial funding from ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds in fiscal year 2022- 2023 to county funds that was not captured in the initial 2023-2024 budget estimate.”

The Guilford County commissioners are expected to approve the $5 million pop at the board’s next meeting on Thursday, Dec. 21.