If you think you can make a living providing foster care to children, think again. Daily rates paid are designed to cover just the local cost of room and board. Some states pay as little as $9 a day and a few pay as much as $30 a day. Most states fall somewhere between these payment extremes for foster children.
A 2007 study from the Children's Rights Organization, the National Foster Parents Association and the University of Maryland School of Social Work compared foster care payment rates for all U.S. states, noting that almost all were inadequate to cover the real cost of providing for a child's needs. Among the higher paying states were Alaska, which paid from $652 to $688 per month; Connecticut, which paid from $756 to $834 per month; and Texas, which paid $652 monthly regardless of the age of the child. Much less was paid by Alabama, which paid from $410 to $446 per month; Illinois, which paid from $380 to $458 per month; and Wisconsin, which paid from $317 to $411 per month.
Payments Vary by Age Group
States generally pay higher rates for older children, who typically have more social needs and fewer willing foster parents. More foster parents are willing to accept pre-teen children. Foster care payments for teenagers are higher in all but a handful of states. Some states have more complicated pay schedules, with rates that are adjusted at age one, age six, and again at age 12, 13 or 15.
Difficulty of Care
If you are willing to provide foster care to a child with moderate to severe physical, mental or emotional impairments, you may receive a stipend above basic room and board. A point system determines if a child requires a level of care above that which the state considers basic room and board care. Daily increments vary widely by state but average just a few dollars extra per level per day.
You will receive an initial allowance designated for clothing when a new child comes to your foster home and then additional allowances for school clothes and summer clothes. The amount allowed for clothing varies depending on the age and needs of the child. A checklist is typically available to help you determine the clothing needs of your foster child. For example, an infant would need receiving blankets and diapers, an older child would not. You must keep receipt records for clothing purchases.
A portion of the daily room and board you receive is to be handed over to the older child for personal allowance. You may help younger children spend their allowance on things such as toys and candy or place their allowance in a savings account for later use. Have your older foster children sign an allowance sheet for dispersals. You are required to keep receipts for deposits and purchases for younger children.
Foster Care Payments May Equal Adoption Subsidy
If you are considering adopting a foster child then you may want to know that most states offer an adoption subsidy equal to their daily foster care rate. However, there are a few states, such as Texas and Oregon, whose adoption subsidy rates are much less than their foster care rates. Very young children may not qualify for adoption subsidies even though they qualify for foster care payments. The many people willing to adopt babies and toddlers make the adoption subsidy unnecessary.