UPDATE 1/26/16: Multiple sources confirm to OPB that Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot and killed by law enforcement officers Tuesday night.
ORIGINAL STORY 1/16/16: A militant leader on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge told OPB his involvement in the occupation has resulted in the loss of his four foster children.
Robert “LaVoy” Finicum and his wife Jeanette were foster care parents for troubled boys. Finicum estimates that over the past decade, more than 50 boys came through their ranch near Chino Valley, Arizona. The boys often landed there from mental hospitals, drug rehabs and group homes for emotionally distressed youth.
“My ranch has been a great tool for these boys,” Finicum said. “It has done a lot of good.”
Jeanette Finicum cared for the four children while her husband traveled between the refuge in southeastern Oregon and Utah, as part of a press tour in support of the militants’ occupation.
Finicum said a social worker removed the last of his foster children from the ranch beginning Jan. 4, with the last child transferred out of his home on Jan. 9.
“They didn’t go out at the same time,” Finicum said. “One was there for a year, one of the boys was there six months, another eight months, and a month. I don’t know where they ended up.”
The removals coincided with Finicum’s involvement in the occupation of the refuge, outside of Burns. He blamed the removals on “pressure from the feds.”
“They were ripped from my wife,” Finicum said. “We are very successful (foster parents). Our track records are good, it’s been a good relationship. (Federal authorities) must have gotten to the governor, who told the state to get them out of there.”
Finicum said he is licensed and has a care contract with Catholic Charities Community Services in Arizona. While his license has not been revoked, Finicum said he would no longer receive referrals to care for foster children.
That represents an enormous loss of income for the Finicums. According to a 2010 tax filing, Catholic Charities paid the family $115,343 to foster children in 2009. That year, foster parents were compensated between $22.31 and $37.49 per child, per day, meaning if the Finicums were paid at the maximum rate, they cared for, on average, eight children per day in 2009.
“That was my main source of income,” Finicum said. “My ranch, well, the cows just cover the costs of the ranch. If this means rice and beans for the next few years, so be it. We’re going to stay the course.”
Since then, Catholic Charities has increased payments for foster care significantly, but it does not itemize the dollar amount the Finicums were paid in subsequent years.
Catholic Charities could not be reached for comment.
Another militant at the refuge, Blaine Cooper, said in a video that Child Protective Services took his children out of his home, but that claim could not be independently verified.
It’s unclear who was caring for Cooper’s children.
“I hope people are seeing the sacrifices we’re making here,” Finicum said. “I want to show what my government is doing. You need to understand the cost being paid by many people.”