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Reagan Budget Proposes Freeze on Program That Has Helped Fund Hale House

February 14, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Clara Hale, the founder of a New York City foster home for children whose mothers are drug addicts, says she sees no irony in President Reagan praising her efforts while proposing to cap the federal program that helps support her work.

Mrs. Hale, 79, was called ″an American hero″ by Reagan in his State of the Union speech last week as she sat in the gallery of the Capitol near Nancy Reagan.

″I can’t say if I feel anything,″ she said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Hale House in New York’s Harlem section. ″I don’t know what he (Reagan) is doing. I only know what I’m doing.″

The president’s proposed 1986 budget for the Health and Human Services program that pays for foster care would be the same $485.4 million that is projected to be spent this year. Foster care was not singled out for cutting, federal officials say.

″We’ve got a $200 billion deficit,″ said Ed Dale, spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget. ″This program, like a lot of other social programs, is not slated for a reduction, but a freeze.″

Marlin Fitzwater, a White House spokesman, added, ″These are programs that have worked, but with that kind of a deficit, you have to make some decisions about what government can do.″

Federal funds for foster care go to all 50 states, where the money is combined with state and local outlays for local programs. If a cap were approved by Congress, states could diminish the effects of a shortfall by reallocating the federal money that is available.

The president’s 1986 budget proposes $40 billion in domestic spending cuts and $30 billion in increased military spending.

Federal funds for Hale House come from Title 4E of the Social Security Act, according to Hal Eidlin, spokesman for the HHS human development services division, which administers the program.

The HHS covers about a third of Hale House’s costs to care for about a dozen infants and small children, said Jack Deacy, a spokesman for New York City’s Human Resources Administration.

Most of the children are returned to their mothers after they, too, have undergone rehabilitation. Of approximately 500 children who have passed through Hale House, only a handful have been placed in foster homes.

″The mothers take them and are very glad to have them,″ Mrs. Hale said.

The public share - by far the largest - of Hale House’s budget this year is about $189,000, of which the federal portion is approximately $64,000, Deacy said.

Private donations often are clothes or supplies, said Mrs. Hale, who started the center in her home in 1969 when she took in the infant child of a young woman who was a drug addict.

She would like to expand Hale House by moving to a larger home nearby, but lack of money is a problem.

″We don’t have any,″ she said. The house she has in mind would allow her to take in ″maybe 50″ infants and children.

The federal foster care program has grown sharply since it was taken over by HHS in 1982, according to Silvia Wise, an HHS budget analyst. Program costs in 1984 were about $440.5 million, she said.

About 100,000 children are supported by the federal money.

If expenses at Hale House go up and the federal share remains the same, ″someone at the agency (Human Resources Administration) then has to determine whether this is worth spending more money on,″ said Suzanne Trazoff, an assistant to Deacy.

The answer almost certainly would be affirmative, she said.

″I think it’s probably pretty safe to assume New York City is not going to let this program go under,″ Ms. Trazoff said. ″Before Reagan got hold of her, she (Mrs. Hale) was well known here.″