Opinion 88-4

This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

COUNTIES -- Powers and Duties (providing refreshments to trainees at foster parent training session)

MUNICIPAL FUNDS -- Appropriations and Expenditures (in recognition of municipal service - refreshments to foster parent trainees)

SOCIAL SERVICES LAW, §371; STATE CONSTITUTION, ART VIII, §1: A county may determine that appropriate refreshments served to trainees at a foster parent training session are incidental to the foster parent program or facilitate recruitment of foster parents and make reasonable expenditures for such refreshments.

You ask whether a county may provide refreshments for trainees participating in a county foster parent training program.

Article 6 of the Social Services Law, which contains provisions relative to the placement and care of dependent children in foster homes (see Social Services Law, §§371, et seq.), delegates to authorized agencies certain responsibilities in connection with foster care (see Social Services Law, §374). Under this article, a county commissioner of social services authorized by law to place out or to board out children is an "authorized agency" (Social Services Law, §371[10][b]; Application of Lascaris, 65 Misc 2d 787, 319 NYS2d 60; Andrews v County of Otsego, 112 Misc 2d 37, 446 NYS2d 169).

The Department of Social Services has promulgated rules and regulations prescribing certain requirements for authorized agencies operating foster home programs, including the following:

"Authorized agencies shall provide training to each certified foster parent in a training program approved by the department which will prepare foster parents to meet the needs of the children in their care so that the best interests of the children placed by the certifying agency will be met." (18 NYCRR §443.3[i]).

In addition, authorized agencies are required to seek to recruit foster parents (18 NYCRR §443.2).

This Office in several other contexts, has previously stated that a municipality may make reasonable expenditures for refreshments which are incidental to a lawful municipal purpose (1979 Opns State Comp No. 79-902, p 212, refreshments for the general public attending an official town function; 1977 Opns State Comp No. 77-226, unreported, refreshments for senior citizens as incidental to a recreation program; 28 Opns State Comp,1972, p 48, refreshments for volunteer firefighters at the scene of a serious fire). Similarly, it is our opinion that a county may determine that appropriate refreshments which are served to trainees at a foster parent training session are incidental to the training program or facilitate recruitment of foster parents by encouraging participation in the program. A reasonable expenditure for refreshments in that case, in our opinion, would be a proper county charge. In reaching this conclusion, however, we make no comment with regard to whether an expenditure by a county for refreshments would be eligible for State reimbursement (see Social Services Law, art 5, title 2).

February 3, 1988
Suzanne M. Zanella, County Auditor
County of Montgomery