Foster parents in Illinois don't receive a salary for their work -- the Illinois DCFS Foster Family Handbook is careful to make that point clear. However, foster parents do receive a monthly payment for caring for children in the foster care system. The distinction is that the funds remitted by the state are classified as a reimbursement, and reflect specified amounts spent for the children's car. As a result, they do not need to be claimed as income for tax purposes, but must be used according to the guidelines provided by the Illinois DCFS.
Reimbursement amounts are based on the age of the children cared for, as well as any special needs that the parents' charges require. The base monthly payment is intended to cover the child's clothing, food, shelter and a personal allowance. In some cases, allowances for day care and after school care are provided in addition to the base payment.
The amount of reimbursement payable to foster parents is determined by the Illinois legislature as part of the state's budget. Any changes to the pay must be approved by the legislature. As of this publication, the base monthly reimbursement, called "the foster care board rate," is:
- $401 per month for children from their date of birth through 11 months
- $409 per month for children age 1 year through 4 years
- $427 per month for children age 5 years through 8 years
- $453 per month for children age 9 years through 11 years
- $491 per month for children age 12 years and over
Current rates may be obtained at any time by calling the Central Payment Unit at 1-800-525-0499. Payments are made on a monthly basis on the month following the care provided and are pro-rated if the foster child was not in your care for the entire month.
How the Money Must be Used
Illinois DCFS policy dictates how some of the foster care board rate is used.
- For children from birth to 11 months, $352 covers board; $37 covers clothing ; $12 is used for the child's allowance
- For children age 1 year to 4 years, $354 covers board; $42 covers clothing; $13 is used for the child's allowance
- For children age 5 through 8 years, $357 covers board; $56 covers clothing; $14 is used for the child's allowance
- For children age 9 through 11 years, $364 covers board; $65 covers clothing; $24 is used for the child's allowance
- For children 12 years old and older, $374 covers board; $74 covers clothing; $43 is used for the child's allowance
If the child is 4 years old or younger, the child's allowance money may be spent by the foster parent to buy toys and other incidentals, which become the property of the foster child.
Relatives of children in the custody of DCFS may receive a monthly payment as an unlicensed relative caregiver. This is handled differently than foster parents' reimbursement and is based on the "standard-of-need" rate. This rate is lower than that paid to licensed foster care parents.
If foster children in your care have special needs, contact the child's caseworker. In some cases, the DCFS will approve a one-time payment to cover such needs. DCFS may provide additional funds when a foster child initially is placed in your home to cover personal hygiene and clothing needs. An allowance of $50 for school supplies is provided annually. The Illinois DCFS also may provide up to $260.35 per child per year for a summer camp or similar activity.
Additional items for which the Illinois DCFS may provide additional funds include:
- Graduation expenses: Up to $512.50; covers items such as cap and gown, yearbook and senior ring
- Transportation expenses for sibling visits: Up to $50 per month
- Infant equipment: Equipment must be returned if foster parents stop providing care after a year or less
- Family reunification services: Up to $400 per month to reimburse activities related to helping the child return home
- Day care: If the child is placed with a single-parent foster family, or a two-parent foster family in which both foster parents work outside the home