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Are we foster parenting “for the money?”

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There are a lot of misperceptions out there about foster parents and money. The problem is that “good” foster parents know it’s taboo to talk about compensation, so there’s no way to clear up the confusion. We don’t want people to think we’re in it for the money, nor do we want them to worry if we have the money to take on an additional child, so we opt not to talk about the financial impact of foster care. I want to do my best to address some of the misperceptions I have heard, but I want to be clear that I do not represent an agency and my answers may be specific to the area of the country where I’m providing foster care. These are my observations from my own experience and the research I’ve done. Feel free to do your own research about what the reality is in your area.

Here are the misperceptions I most commonly hear:

“Foster parents are in it for the money.” The rate a foster parent is paid is based on a state’s assumption of how much it costs to raise a child in that state. This varies greatly from state to state, agency to agency, and based on the particular needs of a child (kids who need more specialized care, have behavioral problems, more medical appointments, etc. may mean foster parents get compensated at a higher rate). You can imagine, getting paid close to exactly what it costs to raise a child is not a way to MAKE money, but is how you keep foster children from being a financial drain on a family. My state has one of the lowest compensation rates in the country. This was recently changed by our state legislature and the increased rates will go into effect this summer. Until that happens, we will be paid 50 cents an hour to provide round the clock care for our foster kids. This is the rate we’ve been paid for the last 5 years we’ve been fostering. Obviously, 50 cents an hour is not an amount we would take if we were “in it for the money.” There will always be unscrupulous people who manipulate the system for their financial benefit (I’ve got a future post coming about that), but for those of us who foster parent with integrity, this is not likely to be a money making venture.

“I can’t afford to be a foster parent.” While the compensation rates are not a way to make money, they should be enough to allow you to provide care for a child without it dipping into your own resources. Along with the compensation from the state, you can also qualify for WIC which helps with things like infant formula and groceries for kids up to age 5. Foster children qualify for medicaid, so you shouldn’t be responsible for their medical expenses. If a child requires services like therapy or educational help, this is something you may need to work with a caseworker to get approval for so you are not paying for it personally. The biggest expenses in foster parenting are usually the upfront costs of getting started with a child. New clothes, diapers, equipment, formula (until you get set up with WIC), school supplies can all be pricey investments that happen before you get your first month’s payment. This is where it’s very helpful to have the support of your church or community to help a new child get established in your home or else be sure you’ve saved money so you’re ready for the initial investment. Remember— you get paid at the end of the month for the days the child was in your home, so you need to be prepared.

“Adoption from foster care is expensive.” Adoption in general is a very pricey process. Just hiring a lawyer to complete the paperwork is expensive. But not through foster care! Not only were we paid to care for our children while we were fostering them, but the state paid for our home study for the adoption and then paid our lawyer’s fees. Let me make this totally clear:  Adoption from foster care is FREE.

“Good foster parents would do it for free.” This is a comment I have read multiple times when I’m doing research on foster payment rates. There are always those people who say foster parents should be willing to do this for free out of the goodness of their hearts. I can tell you that foster parenting at whatever the compensation rate is ALWAYS done out of the goodness of your heart (when you are talking about quality foster parents). There is no amount of money that makes it worth dealing with the inconvenience, the heartache, and sometimes even the fear for your own safety that foster parenting can bring. This is first and foremost a calling. But that doesn’t mean that people can do it without compensation. Pastors are paid. Missionaries are paid. And we don’t assume that means they don’t really care about the people they work with or that the money is corrupting them. In fact, we know the reality that “you get what you pay for.” Poorly compensating foster parents is not a way to encourage the most qualified, educated, passionate people to get involved. Poor compensation rates also mean people who would like to foster but aren’t independently wealthy may be excluded from providing care. When only the wealthy can foster this creates a major socioeconomic gap between the people providing care and the families they are hoping to help, which is problematic.

“I can’t afford to stay at home, so I can’t be a foster parent.” Having a stay-at-home parent is not a prerequisite for being a foster family. The state will pay for childcare, so it really shouldn’t be an issue. I do know that we have be able to get infants straight from the hospital because I am at home. Infants can’t go to daycare until they are at least 6 weeks old, so you either have to be at home or have an alternative solution for those first six weeks if you want to take placement of a newborn. There may also be children who have unique needs that keep your average daycare setting from being a good fit for them. Being a working parent may help shape the kind of placement you are open to, but it shouldn’t keep you from fostering.

“Foster parenting would be a good way to bring in extra income to make ends meet.” Our agency had us fill out a form that detailed our financial situation. We needed to be able to prove that we were capable of meeting all our financial obligations without being dependent on foster care payments. You don’t want to be making unwise decisions about bringing in kids you aren’t qualified to care for just because you need to pay your bills. The purpose of foster care compensation is to repay you for what you spent on the care of a child, not pay your living expenses.

“I can’t afford to adopt my foster child because we’d lose our monthly payment.” The state doesn’t want to prevent foster parents from making longterm commitments to their foster children because it would be a financial hit. The state knows that it is good and important for kids to have consistent caregivers in their life and not go through unnecessary disruption. It is also money saving for the state to have kids in permanent homes. Having kids in adoptive homes means they are no longer paying court costs or oversight costs, so many adoptive families are offered some kind of adoption subsidy. Adoption subsidies have even been found to save the state money in future prison costs or mental health service costs because kids do better in stable environments. This website has good information about adoption subsides.

In my next post I’ll address some of my personal pet peeves having to do with foster parent compensation.

Any other foster parents have financial misconceptions you’ve had to deal with?

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17 Comments

  1. a lot of foster parents are just in it for the money the kids are put outside and allowed to run wild. as a neighbour of foster parents. i see that they are only in it for the money fostering should not be paid this is a vocation not a violation

    • Foster parenting shouldn’t be paid? It isn’t. It’s compensation. I’m thinking of taking a foster child I would need that compensation to pay for food, clothes, music lessons, field trips, occasional babysitters, transportation, extra costs in utilities, gifts, birthday parties, sports costs, hot lunches ( I would not want my child to feel differently from the other kids), allowance, school supplies, school fees, tutors, summer camp etc. Kids are expensive, and many families don’t have the means to do this for a child that isn’t theirs. This does not make them bad people.

  2. I didn’t bother to read this article past the first two sentences because is always the same lines used… How can one foster for the money. If they did it would be 50cents an hour its baloney all the Doctors appointments ect just stop it. If u don’t do it for the money that’s fine u don’t do it, but to say their no people that do do it for the money is (BS) I was fostered and adopted solely for money, and Kept medication so the rate would stay the same. Her name is Maritza Fred of Brooklyn. She’s a charlatan. Google her, And their are a lot of them pronouncing around fostering groups of kids. For a fat check. She had 5 kids one time banking over 2500 dollars. If u spending 150 or less on them a month. What u think there using the rest for… I know paying off their home ect she’s been doing it for over 20 years. nobody looks into how it’s spent especially private agencies.

    http://m.nydailynews.com/new-york/discarded-children-bring-checks-adoptive-parents-gave-article-1.1862778

    Get a clue.

    • It’s unfortunate that you didn’t bother to read past the first two sentences. If you would have you would have seen that I wrote: “There will always be unscrupulous people who manipulate the system for their financial benefit (I’ve got a future post coming about that), but for those of us who foster parent with integrity, this is not likely to be a money making venture.” It makes me very sad that you were in a home where you were treated as a means to an end, a paycheck. I hate that and it makes me angry. It is also why I write– so we can educate and recruit quality foster parents who aren’t looking at it that way. If we continue to denigrate and stereotype foster parents as only in it for the money, we will keep good people from getting involved. I don’t want anyone else to have the experience you did, so it’s important to me to clear up the misperceptions people have about how foster parents are compensated.

      • then maybe there should be limits on the amount of kids allowed in their homes.

        • I’m not sure what makes you think there aren’t limits. Even in my state, which has comparatively one of the least restrictive fostering guidelines in the nation (and one of the lowest compensation rates), you cannot have more than five foster children in your home at the same time, and no more than six total including your own children.

        • They should not receive nothing if they are taking in children . They are not helping children they are actually destroying poor families .why pay strangers to take care of children if they can’t provide for the child without government assistance ? They are destroying families by giving assistance to the greedy not the needy . Why is it OK for them to pay a wealthy family more and not those who are that need the help to keep the family together ?

          • At the end of the day it is about the needs of the child. I do not consider my family wealthy yet we are in a good spot financially. We have added to our family with two brothers, and it is struggle to assimilate them into the type of life that our blended family is accustom too. We want them to play every seasonal sport, play in the band, summer camp, boy scouts just like our children did and do. I can go on and on and at the end of the day it take money to do that. So a family should not be judged on what they have are do not have. If there are children in the house already or in the past. The multiple case study should show that the parents will keep them involved and Per Diem should reflect that.

            A family should not be held to a minimum amount because they look like they got it and nor should a family be given he maximum because they appear to be in need. It’s simple if the little league coaches, scout master, and other communities leaders have not seen you in the communities with your other children why would you put the foster children in it it.

    • I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m a foster mom and I could have all 3 of her brothers but I choose not to, because even though I would get a bigger check I will not be doing good by them. I only have the spare time and patience for one more so I stuck to my “guns” and did not allowed the state to guilt me into not separating them and keeping them all. It is tough to be a foster parent but it is probably not 1/4 as difficult as it is being a foster son/daughter. Empathy for the kids emotions is most important and then of course the understanding that foster kids already have traumas and it is important for us not to create more trauma.

    • “I didn’t bother to read this article past the first two sentences…but to say their no people that do do it for the money is (BS)” Next time either don’t just read two sentences before mouthing off about BS that you just made up, or just click the back button before you type a reply.

  3. I would love to foster, however I would want to be paid well to take someone into my home and care for them. Paid a lot. So I don’t.

  4. I’m glad I found your blog. My husband and I already have a child who’s in preschool, and we both work. We both really want to foster-to-adopt and have begun the licensing process. Neither one of us is remotely motivated by money, and expect that it will cost us out of pocket to foster. However, we attended the first training class this morning and found out that the reimbursement in our state for a child aged 0-5 is $575/month. We know from raising our own child that infant care in our city (Portland, OR), runs you at least $1200/month if not $1600/month. I am sort of stunned that foster parents are expected to come up with an extra almost $1000/month, just for childcare, if both parents are working outside the home. $575 would only cover half of daycare costs, and wouldn’t begin to cover food/diapers/formula, etc. Again, I expected the reimbursement to be minimal and possibly insufficient, but $1000/month is a prohibitively huge financial obstacle.

    • I’m not sure what the options are in your area, but here (in Nebraska) the state will pay for childcare costs if you are employed. That would definitely be something to check into! I hope the costs don’t keep you from being involved, but I can understand that if they don’t pay for childcare that would be a major burden. I hate to think we’re pricing people out of being able to be foster parents which also creates an even larger economic gap between the homes these kids are generally coming from and their foster families, which can complicate relationships and our ability to understand each other. If childcare costs aren’t covered, maybe it’s time to see what kind of advocating you can do to get your state to take another look at that.

    • I completely agree. I’m a single foster mom in CA on my 1st foster placement. Here my reimbursement amount is $707 per month for 0-4 years old. In training we were told daycare was paid for. Now, after trying to set up daycare I find out that there is no money for daycare. There is a wait list and the possibility that daycare MIGHT be paid for in a couple months (but no backdating). In the meantime the baby I’m taking care of goes home after being with me for less than a month and I’m stuck with the daycare bill. I have come to the conclusion that I can not afford to take any temporary foster placements. After is child I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

  5. I am a musician and my wife an artist. We make the average American Income. Which might cover the average American family. However, after recent opportunities working with orphans in Costa Rica, we have decided to get involved in fostering. Don’t know exactly what we are called to do yet but here is my concern. Most of our friends are well off. We live in a well off community. Because we have chosen to do a lot of volunteer work, we will probably never get rich on our selected fields. But I worry that our friends and neighbors will think we are doing it FOR the compensation. I don’t know if we could do it without it. But I don’t want that perception. We are actively involved in our community but we are also known for being frugal and having less money.
    Do you know statistically what financial demographic tends to foster? And if it is people on the lower class side, why do people with the money to care for more children typically not adopt. Have you seen any good articles on this discussion?

  6. People are so quick to judge, i pax taxes and would love to foster children at the same time I can’t go broke … we all pay taxes right , so the money should go to people wanting to help our children … , yes maybe some of that money helps a lady pay off her house , well that would make some since wouldnt it ? I mean her house was used to help raise these children ? I love kids I’m a big kid myself I work hard and would love to welcome. Kids into my home and it isn’t wrong to expect so sort of financial assis.

  7. I am being bullied by cassworker s cause I am pending my SS due to accident I just became a foster grandma and every meeting is if you don’t have income we will take the kids if your grass isn’t cut we will take the kids it’s crazy I am sick of the threaten behavior I have to deal with cause I love my grandkids

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