Innovative program helping foster care system, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars

STARS keeps children from going into private, therapeutic foster care agency care

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – A child in foster care comes at a big cost to taxpayers and depending on how much support they need, the cost just increases when you add things like in-home therapy. But the Roanoke Valley has an innovative program that’s saving money.

The Burke family will officially be a little bigger later this year.

“Brian and I really felt like we could provide a kid a loving home and support,” said Cari Burke, a foster parent.

Cari and Brian Burke are adopting a child out of foster care and at times it’s been a roller coaster. But they’ve gotten support from Specialized Treatment and Resources Support (STARS for short) which provides extra support to families at no cost.

Brian Burke says he doesn’t think they would have been successful as foster parents without it.

“Through STARS, being able to talk with other folks who have been through it, that therapy they provide to not only our foster child but also to us to help us cope with dealing with that trauma that they’ve experienced,” said Brian Burke.

Roanoke County and Roanoke City teamed up for the support program that includes specialized training, a therapist, and fun events for families to attend.

“Being removed from everything you know even in the best of reasons is traumatizing,” said Ben Jones, Roanoke County Department of Social Services family services supervisor who adds STARS is a huge savings for taxpayers because they can place children in local foster homes instead of going to outside therapeutic foster care agencies. “We are much more affordable based on county funds for the same outcomes.”

Roanoke County says a child with mild needs who is placed in a STARS home costs the county about $10,000 a year. If that child goes to a therapeutic foster care with an outside agency it costs $30,000. Moderate level of care is four times as much at $40,000. The most expensive care is close to six times more expensive at $55,800.

STARS saves taxpayers at least three times what they would pay for an outside agency.

Jones says they’re able to keep costs down because they’re using existing staff and services but still providing the same level of training and support that the STARS family needs to take care of the child’s needs.

By keeping kids local, it’s also a big benefit for kids like the one in the Burke’s home.

“If you are from our region then you’re connected to our communities, our schools, our athletic teams, our culture. The parks, the trails. You’re going to have relatives here, people that matter to you here, your favorite teacher, your coach,” said Jones.

“Keeping him local, keeping him familiar with his surroundings has helped him to relax and kind of acclimate to normal home life,” said Brian Burke about his foster son.

Jones says his hope is more local social service agencies will use this model and it can free up money to use in other ways to help these families and children.

If you’re interested in becoming a STARS family, contact Ben Jones at

There are more than 700 children who are ready for foster to adoption in Virginia. They are ready to find a permanent and loving forever family. 10 News is profiling one child who needs a home every day at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in 30 Days of Hope. The children are all ages and races and were put into foster care due to no fault of their own. 2020 marks the fourth year 10 News is doing this series.

If you have questions about foster care/adoption, contact DePaul Community Resources here.

About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.