Foster parents receive state aid to help defray the costs of caring for their child.

Does Being a Foster Parent Cost Money?

by Sharon Perkins

If you want to become a foster parent, you don't have to pay any fees to make it happen. You do have to meet strict standards and agree to allow caseworkers into your home to assess your foster child's progress and the appropriateness of the placement. You will receive a payment each month toward the cost of your foster child's general care, food, clothing and housing needs.

Payments to Foster Parents

The amount of monthly stipend you get as a foster parent depends on the state where you live. Every state sets its own payment for foster care; the lowest amounts paid in 2012 ranged from a low of $8.09 per month for children from infants to age 5 in Nebraska to a high of $30.66 per month in Washington, D.C., for the same age group.

What Payments Cover

Figuring out the complicated formulas states use to determine payments can be headache-inducing. Kentucky, for example, bases their payments on standard necessities such as housing, clothing, transportation and food, but also includes school supplies, personal allowances, haircuts, graduation expenses and sports and social or recreational activities for older children. For younger children, babysitting costs may be factored in. For a medically fragile child, the cost of transportation to medical appointments and respite care might also be added to payments. Foster parents also receive extra money for a child's birthday and Christmas presents.

Factors That Affect Payments

Payments depend on several factors, including the age of the child. The payments generally increase for older children. States also pay higher stipends to foster parents willing to care for medically fragile children, children with disabilities or with known behavioral issues. The percentage of foster parents receiving the most basic rate varies from state to state; in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Tennessee, 75 to 100 percent of families receive the basic rate, according to a 2012 Child Trends survey. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, between 0 and 24 percent of families receive the basic amount.

Covering Costs

Despite receiving monthly payments, most foster parents spend more on their foster children than the state gives them every month, according to a joint survey conducted and compiled by the University of Maryland School of Social Work, the National Foster Parent Association, and Children’s Rights, a New York-based advocacy group in 2007. At that time, only Arizona and Washington, D.C., paid more than the amount necessary to cover the child's basic costs, the survey found. Five states -- Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin -- needed to double their current foster parent stipend to cover the child's basic costs.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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