When you agree to provide foster care for a child, the state where you live pays a monthly stipend for your child's care. The payment you receive is not a salary or pay for taking care of the child; it's money to use on the child's needs. The rates paid vary from state to state. States where the cost of living is higher often pay more to foster parents. Amounts also vary depending on the age of the child -- foster parents of older or special needs children receive more.
What Payments Cover
Payments made to foster parents cover room, board, food and entertainment such as toys, books and, for older foster children, money for activities such as participation in a youth group event such as a ski trip or for summer camp. States add a clothing allowance based on the child's age and special circumstances to the monthly base rate. If you work outside the home, the state might also cover your foster child's day care costs. On special occasions such as birthdays and other holidays, graduation or the start of the school year, foster parents generally receive additional money, according to a web page on the website for Hunter College in Manhattan.
What Payments Don't Cover
Foster parents don't receive a salary or money over and above what the state pays for their foster child's care. In fact, according to the Children's Rights website, payments would need to increase by 36 percent in most states just to actually cover the costs of fostering a child. Foster-parenting shouldn't be considered as a replacement for a job outside the home. Payments don't cover medical care, because Medicaid covers the medical needs of foster children. In many cases, infants receive formula, baby food and diapers through the government Women, Infants and Children program.
Foster parents whose foster children have special needs -- physical, developmental, emotional or mental -- often receive additional money each month for counseling or other therapies. This money might go directly to the service providing the therapy rather than to the foster parents. Grandparents and other close relatives can apply to serve as foster parents to their grandchild, niece or nephew. They receive the same money as any other foster parents but must consent to agency supervision of their care. Foster parents can also receive additional payment as mileage expenses for taking foster children to appointments or to parental and sibling visits.
If you decide to adopt your foster child, your state might help with the adoption costs. In addition, if your adopted child is classified as special needs, has ongoing health issues or physical or emotional problems requiring continuing therapy, the government might also provide a monthly stipend such as supplemental security income or covering the child's medical costs under Medicaid, to help defray those costs. Special needs foster children can include minorities, members of a sibling group, and those with health or emotional issues.