Do foster parents get paid?
That is my first thought whenever I hear that question. The answer to the question is–well–yes and no. No, we do not receive a salary. We are not employees, and foster parents are not profiting from taking in foster children. To any would be foster parents, I can tell you that you should strike that thinking from your mind before you begin.
However, the reality is that most foster parents, depending on the state you live in, do receive monetary support. Many people outside of foster care may not realize a few things, so I will try to explain. Children who are removed from their homes, whether they go to a foster home or a group home of some kind, are legally considered wards of the state. That means, among other things, that the state is required to provide the support these children need. Placing these children in a foster home does not alleviate the state’s responsibility for care, so the state will normally provide what is called a stipend to the foster family to help with the cost of providing their daily needs.
So, what is included in this support? Every state is different. However, below are some points to consider with regards to stipends and support for foster parents:
- A monthly stipend is intended to help feed, clothe, and otherwise support your foster child. This amount usually is not enough to cover all expenses, but is there to help.
- Children with special needs or who require special medical attention can qualify for a higher stipend. This is to assist with travel expenses to the doctor, time away from work, and other issues related to their care.
- Some states also offer back to school stipends, which is an extra amount given to the foster parents to purchase clothes and school supplies.
- If you are connected to a private foster care agency, they may also provide some assistance. In many cases, it is not monetary but rather donations or gifts to help with your child’s care.
- Foster parents are usually required to provide proof of income, and must be able to provide care for the foster care child without the assistance of the stipend if necessary.
So, I know what you are thinking and are afraid to ask, so I will address it now. What stops foster parents from taking in a bunch of children, pocketing the stipend and not using it on the children? Well, keep in mind that caseworkers are required to visit the children on a regular basis. Their job is to make sure the children are in a loving environment and are being cared for. In addition, many children are assigned a Guardian ad litem. Their job is to be the child’s voice to the court. So, they must also visit the child and report to the court on the child’s welfare.
So now that that’s out of the way, let’s be real. My wife and I met many foster parents in our journey. I never met a foster parent who looked at the stipend as a salary or a way to profit. The journey of a foster parent is unlike any other type of parent. Not only do we provide a loving home for one or more children, we are also their voice in the foster care system. This system includes health professionals, case workers, biological parents, judges, attorneys, and more. We go to judicial hearings. We go to parental visits. We go to doctor’s visits. The parking, gas, and wear and tear to our cars alone eats up more than most stipends. Add to that the vacation time from work and you can see how easily the expenses add up.
Am I complaining? Of course not! I can tell you that the day we met our children, we were forever in love with them. We knew that no matter what the cost, what the sacrifice, we would fight for them as much and as long as they needed. In the weeks and months to come, we knew that whether they were re-united with their biological family, or stayed with us, nothing would stop us from taking advantage of every day we had with them. And surely, money was not going to stop us.
So I have a question for you. Now you know the answer to that awkward question. How will you respond? Will you open your heart and home to a child in need?
I hope so.