Foster parents receive reimbursement for the costs of providing a home for a foster child. Although a collaborative effort between Children’s Rights, the National Foster Parent Association and the University of Maryland established foster care minimum adequate rates for children, commonly called the MARC, each state sets its own rates. Foster parents are paid differently according to the state in which they live, the child’s age and other factors.
States can and do set differing levels of pay for children in the foster care system, according to a 2013 report developed by Child Trends titled “Family Foster Care Reimbursement Rates in the U.S.” A state might have a few as two or as many as 10 different levels of pay. The basic rate is generally age-dependent and increases as the child gets older. Most states pay less than the estimated cost to raise a child, according to Child's Rights. In addition to daily rates, foster parents receive additional monies for items such as school supplies, books, birthday presents, clothing or diapers.
How Rates Work
States typically pay the same rate for licensed foster care, whether the care is provided by relatives, unrelated foster parents or pre-adoptive parents, according to Child Trends. Only eight states vary payments based on geographic location within the state. In New York, for example, foster parents receive a minimum stipend of $15.58 per day per child in upstate New York, and $17.10 per day per child in the New York metropolitan area. States use a diagnostic tool to determine whether a child has unusual needs and requires a higher stipend. Many states set their rates as early as the year 2000, and there is no routine mechanism for evaluating rates and revising them, although approximately one-third of states do revise their rates periodically based on inflation.
Foster parents receive different payments based on such issues as whether the child needs therapeutic care, is a teen with her own baby, or the parent provides emergency foster care services. In some states, such as California, each county sets its own rates. States may negotiate rates with special providers or those supervised by private agencies. Nebraska uses a point system to determine how much a foster parent receives for each child, while New Jersey bases payments on the level of care and acuity – the seriousness of the child’s condition. A Level D Acuity 5 child, for example, could have a stipend ranging from $36.59 to $41.06 a day.
The basic rate foster parents receive can vary from $7.23 a day per child in Nebraska to $30.66 a day per child in the District of Colombia. However, some states vary the rate depending on whether a public or private agency supervises the foster care home. In North Carolina, for example, rates for publicly supervised foster homes range from $15.62 per day per child to $20.84 per day per child. In privately supervised homes, the rates vary from $47.11 per day per child to $53.85 per day per child. The rate may also be different if the child is considered medically fragile; in Alabama, the daily rate for a medically fragile child is $35.51.