Brown County foster family forced to make decision about license

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- A Brown County foster family continues its fight after learning the planned adoption of one of their foster children could be in jeopardy.

Action 2 News told you about Keith and Katie Szerkins a few weeks ago when Katie was poked by a needle reaching into the diaper bag of a child recently put in their care.
Katie’s doctor immediately put her on preventative treatment for HIV, Hepatitis B and C.

The family is still in the process of trying to recoup those costs.

By law, foster families are required to have private health insurance.

According to David Hemery, with the Brown County Corporation Counsel, foster parents are supposed to exhaust all other insurance options for reimbursement, including state agencies, before turning to the county.

Katie said her private health insurance company covered some of the medical bills, but denied the most recent one submitted.

The Szerkins have agreed to make a claim with the state's foster parent reimbursement program.

In a statement Tuesday, Hemery said, “The County is pleased that the foster parents have agreed to first submit their bills to all insurance companies that may provide coverage.”

However, to make that insurance claim to the state, the Szerkins have to go through the county and pay a $100 deductible for every claim. With at least two more check-ups before her preventative treatment is done, the Szerkins expect to pay the fee a few more times, out of pocket.

Katie said they won’t know for months whether their claim was accepted. If it is denied, the Szerkins will then have to work with the county for reimbursement. Since our last story aired, the Szerkins were able to find an attorney to guide them through this process.

In the meantime, an email from Brown County is giving the Szerkins just days to decide what do with their current fostering license.

A few weeks ago, after feeling like they had no support from Brown County during this incident, the suzerains resigned from being an emergency foster home, but said they would continue to care for the children currently in their home because their Brown County foster license is valid until December 2019.

“We expected to have more time to be able to figure out our plan and remain inactive with Brown County,” said Katie.

However, on Monday the Szerkins got an email from a Brown County foster care support supervisor. In the email obtained by Action 2 News, the supervisor writes, “I am aware of your desire to continue fostering, but understand that staying licensed as a brown county foster home may present some challenges with the recent events that have transpired.”

“They are requesting to no longer hold our license,” said Katie.

In the email, the supervisor gives the Szerkins two options: to transfer their current license to Lutheran Social Services in Appleton or find another local treatment agency.

“They gave us a deadline of six days from today (Tuesday), so May 20 we need to make up our mind about where we want to go and what we are going to do,” said Katie.

The choice is even more dire as they are in the process of adopting one of their foster kids who's been with them for 2.5 years.

“Our license cannot be removed or revoked or we will no longer be able to adopt our son,” said Katie.

Katie emailed the county back to ask why they only get a week to decide, but she has not gotten a response back.

“Trying to find a place to go is concerning for us,” said Katie. “People may not want to have us and I fully understand that, but that is something we will have to look into. Six days is not enough time to make that decision,” said Kate.

The Szerkins are also caring for a child out of Milwaukee. As a courtesy, Brown County has been helping check in on the child every month. Because the child is less than three-years-old, officials need to check in twice a month.

In the same email, the supervisor wrote, “We also feel it is best that our agency discontinue our role for courtesy supervision of the child placed in your home. We will be reaching out to Milwaukee County Child Protective Services to inform them of this change and that they will need to take over these monthly home visits or reach out to a neighboring county for assistance.”

Katie said Milwaukee County Protective Services will either have to visit them twice a month to check in or remove the child all together.

Faced with a lot of uncertainty, the Szerkins aren't second-guessing themselves.

“I know we are doing the right thing, I know we are in the right,” said Katie. “If we don't fight, it's going to happen again.”

The Szerkins are not sure if they will be taking any legal action against Brown County. Hemery says the county ‘continues to proceed with caution.’