Are you thinking about being a foster carer because you have a strong desire to share your life with a child who needs your unconditional love, support and guidance; or, are you considering fostering for the paycheck?
If money is an important part of your decision, fostering may not be in either yours or the child’s best interests. Foster parenting is not a way to make money. Although foster parents do get paid a monthly check (called a “stipend”), the amount of the monthly stipend is likely to be less than the actual monthly cost of raising the foster child.
That’s why proving financial stability is one of the requirements to become a foster parent. It’s how agencies determine whether applicants are capable of providing for the ongoing expenses of a foster child. Because the monthly stipend for raising a foster child probably will not cover all of her or his monetary needs, the difference is part of your role as a loving and supportive foster parent.
Monthly stipends vary by state and are based on the cost of living and the level of needs for a specific foster child. For example, most states provide a larger monthly stipend for older and special needs fosters, in order to help off-set the child’s need for more of your time and attention, plus additional expenses.
Please understand that many foster children have experienced traumatic life events and require your unconditional love and patience, no matter what amount of reimbursement you receive. Their hearts, minds or bodies may be broken by abuse or neglect. Helping them overcome their past trauma should be at the core of your decision to foster. Click below to find the basic monthly stipend your state pays foster caregivers.
Monthly stipends must only be used for the foster child’s expenses and are intended to provide for his or her “basic” needs, including:
Personal expenses, such as dental and hair products, deodorant and other necessities
Expenses required for the child’s well-being
Health insurance coverage for foster kids is provided under your state’s version of Medicaid, including behavioral and mental health treatment.
Monthly stipends received for fostering children are not taxed or considered income. However, foster youths are not always eligible for the same credits and deductions as biological or adopted children; but there are potential tax breaks:
If the agency that placed the child in your home is approved by the IRS to receive charitable donations, you are also eligible to deduct your out-of-pocket foster care expenses as charitable donations.
If your agency is not qualified to accept donations, you may be able to claim the foster child as a dependent.
Based on the average monthly stipend, foster carers get paid between $20.00 - $25.00 per day, minus what they spend for the foster child’s basic needs. Foster parenting is not a fiscally sound decision; rather, it is a choice made from the heart.
Choosing to foster a child and receive a monthly stipend from the state can have a downside. Because most foster children do not understand the cost of raising them, learning that the state pays you for their care can cause issues. Some fosters may believe you are fostering them “for the money,” and others may demand their share of “their government money.”
Foster Parenting Resources
Foster care alumnus Dr. Paul Owen states his view of the monthly stipend paid to his foster carers in our book, Emancipating from the Care of Strangers: The Experiences, Insights and Recommendations of Ten Former Foster Kids
“They also did not want to spend money on new clothing for me … I’m not sure where the funds from the government checks went to.”
Conversely, choosing to foster has a rewarding upside. Foster care alumna Elizabeth Sutherland shares her life-changing experience at her final foster placement in our book, Growing Up in the Care of Strangers: The Experiences, Insights and Recommendations of Eleven Former Foster Kids
“They took only two foster kids at a time and they treated us as if what happened to us mattered to them. I honestly think they cared more about making a difference in our lives than they did about the money. I lived with the Simmonds’ from 9th grade through my high school graduation. The three years I stayed with them did make a positive difference in my life. In my eyes, they are heroes.”
Becoming a “hero” to a foster child compels applicants to meet the basic qualifications for potential foster carers in your state. For example, some states have a minimum age of 18, while other states expect applicants to be at least 21. Although each state has its own requirements, the basic qualifications to be a foster parents include:
Meeting the minimum age requirement
Passing a background check
Showing that you are capable of providing a safe and nurturing home environment
Proving that you have the financial stability to provide for the foster child’s care
Being physically and psychologically healthy
Possessing a state driver’s license and having a car
The process of applying to become a foster carer requires that you apply with your state social services department. Each state has its own application process, but these are the five basic steps in the application process:
Orientation and training
Home and family evaluation
Approval and placement
The most important part of the foster parent decision-making process comes down to confirming that you – and every member of your family – are “all in” to welcoming a stranger into your home and treating them as a cherished family member.
Everyone in the family must understand that most foster kids were probably abused or neglected, taken from their parents and all things familiar against their will, lived in other placements and suffer from trauma. They can be prickly porcupines expecting more of the same. That’s why all family member must provide unconditional love and support, no matter what. You will be tested!
Alumna Danita Echols reveals how placement with a loving foster family marked a turning point in her young life in our book Growing Up in the Care of Strangers: The Experiences, Insights and Recommendations of Eleven Former Foster Kids
“I could not believe that I was now living in a family that did not have secrets. I watched, waited, poked and prodded, but found nothing amiss in this household. For the first time in my brief but stressed-filled life, I lowered my defenses and embraced the positive emotions this stable, loving family provided.”
This is the insightful information you can only know if you have experienced foster care or learned from former fosters. Please consider reading about the lived experiences of successful alumni. Their stories, insights and recommendations provide the insider knowledge you need in order to understand your foster child’s mind-set and how to replace her or his past trauma with the foundation for a brighter future.