Getting Paid to Be a Foster Parent: State-by-State Monthly Guide
Do Foster Parents Get Paid?
If you're thinking about fostering children for extra money, you're in it for the wrong reason. Fosters get a non-taxable subsidy from the government to help care for any kids they take in—this is not money you should be using to pay your rent, go on vacation, or buy a new car. And let me tell you, this reimbursement is rarely enough to cover all of a child's needs (I include average monthly payments in a table below to prove this point). According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Even if families receive adoption assistance or a subsidy, adoptive families are still responsible for everyday financial obligations such as child care and extracurricular activities."
Dr. John DeGarmo, founder and director of The Foster Care Institute and a foster parent himself, says, "[Someone] should become a foster parent if they have a desire to help children in need, a desire to protect children from abuse, a desire to give a child the unconditional love they so very much need. Every child that has come through my home has made me a better person."
This article will cover the following information:
- Approximate monthly subsidy rates
- What the basic maintenance rate is supposed to cover
- Fostering a special-needs child
- Eligibility for tax breaks
- When monthly payments start and if there are any income requirements to foster
- Adoption assistance
- State resources to find out more specifics about subsidies as well as the process for applying to foster
- My personal opinion on subsidies
The rates below are just an average range. Reimbursement rates vary by state, and each state offers different levels of reimbursement depending on the level of needs for each child that you take in.
How Much Do Parents Get Paid Monthly Per Child?
Rhode Island: $538-$630
South Carolina: $332-$425
New Hampshire: $498-$642
South Dakota: $518-$622
New Jersey: $763-$907
New Mexico: $483-$542
Colorado: Varies greatly from county to county
New York: Each of 58 local districts is allowed to set its own rates. The state only determines the maximum amounts it will reimburse to the local districts; there is no minimum. Maximum state aid rates for Metro/Upstate are $560 (average).
North Carolina: $475-$634
North Dakota: $752-$945
Ohio: Each county sets its own minimum and maximum per diem (day) rates, which range from $10.00 to $118.00 per day.
West Virginia: $600
Pennsylvania: Varies by county
What Does a Base Rate Cover?
A base rate payment is a payment made to the foster parents for providing the basic needs of children in their home. This includes:
- Personal expenses
Each foster child is covered under the state’s health insurance, their version of Medicaid. This also includes any behavioral or mental health needs.
Fostering Children With Special Needs
Children in the foster care system who are "high needs" garner a higher monthly payment. But a higher-needs foster child will need more time and attention given to them. They have higher costs and require more doctor's visits, You can't just collect the monthly payment and take them to their doctor's visits. You will need to have more patience for them, play with them more, learn what they need from you, create different types of discipline, and basically do everything differently.
Some are broken mentally because of what they have been through while others have physical issues that add to the mental issues, all caused by the neglect or abuse they went through in their home before becoming a foster child.
Remember that when you are thinking of becoming a foster parent, you are dealing with a life—a little person that will depend on you for every need. This little person is not a puppy. You cannot become a foster parent just because you want to do something nice. You need to have certain skills and training. While it is an amazing thing to do, it is not for everyone!
Are You Eligible for Tax Breaks as a Foster Parent?
Unfortunately, foster children are often not eligible for many of the same credits and deductions as biological or adopted children. But there are a couple of valuable tax breaks available.
As I mentioned, any reimbursements you receive from the government are non-taxable. If the agency that placed the child can receive charitable donations, you can deduct your foster care expenses as charitable deductions. If your agency doesn't accept donations, you may be able to qualify for claiming the child as a dependent.
When Do Payments Start?
Every state has its own timeline for payments, and you'll want to find this information out once you're approved to foster. It's likely that payments won't start to arrive until near the beginning of the second month that you providing care, so you'll want to have extra money stashed away to help cover costs for that first month. Also, many states offer an extra clothing allowance, but this payment may also be delayed, so don't be surprised if you need to shell out your own cash for new clothes for your foster child.
Are There Income Requirements to Foster a Child?
Again, this may vary slightly in different states, but overall, the state just wants to make sure you make enough money to meet your family's needs. They'll require you submit proof that you can pay for basic things like your mortgage or rent, utilities, and provide basic needs such as food and clothes for the children. You may need to provide copies of tax returns, pay stubs, and utility bills as proof of adequate income. You'll want to check out your state's application process for specific requirements.
Do You Still Get Paid After You Adopt a Foster Child?
Dr. DeGarmo says many states offer a post-adoption subsidy, a small monthly rate that is granted to the adoptive parent. You can also apply for adoption assistance. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, "the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 provided the first Federal subsidies to encourage the adoption of children from the nation’s foster care system."
It's available to children that the state or county has determined cannot be adopted without adoption assistance. These children are called “special needs” for the purposes of adoption assistance eligibility. In the U.S., about 90 percent of children adopted from foster care are eligible for adoption assistance. Each state has its own definition of "special needs."
Still Think You Want to Foster?
These numbers are pathetic. In some of these states, you are lucky if the payment will be enough to cover gasoline to get back and forth to the many doctor's appointments foster children have. You should not consider getting payment from the state as getting "paid" to do your job. You are not being paid for a service. You are getting paid to help cover costs for the child, and these payments do not even cover all costs. You will not make a profit (unless you are neglecting the child). Instead, you will pay more than you are given! Is it right that the states do not fully cover the expenses? Of course not! In a perfect world, more would be paid so that more qualified people could foster, reducing the number of children in foster care. Until then, the little bit that is given will need to be used only for the foster child's most needed expenses.
It's rather simple. Are you wanting to "get paid" or to get some help in the form of payment? There is nothing wrong with needing a little help with the costs of being a foster parent. There is, however, something wrong with the idea of wanting to get paid for being a foster parent.
If you see these numbers and you still think you want to become a foster parent. please learn more, and see what you can do to help the over 400,000 children nation-wide without homes.
How I Feel About These Subsidies
I am in favor of foster parents who are in it for the right reasons, and I support payments being made to foster parents to HELP with the cost of foster parenting. The problem only comes when foster parents use the money they receive for their personal wants, instead of using the money for the child's needs. I fully support the idea that the government should cover the costs of the child's needs, but many states don't even cover half of what parents need to spend on that child. I find that sad and disappointing. The federal government should do a better job of helping parents cover the needed costs of caring for these left-behind children.
Where to Find Specific Information on Foster Care Rates
Here are resources for subsidy rates and general information on the state of foster care in your state.
Alabama: While the state's website doesn't provide much information, the Alabama Foster and Adoptive Parent Association provides basic rates as well as information on how to begin fostering.
Alaska: The Alaska Center for Resource Families has a really wonderful online handbook (published in 2015) that prospective foster parents can check out for more info on subsidy rates, other financial costs, and state-covered health insurance for foster children.
Arizona: The Arizona Department of Child Safety offers an in-depth breakdown of subsidies foster parents are eligible for based on the level of care needed for a child.
Arkansas: Unfortunately, there is little info available online in terms of exact subsidy rates, despite there being over 5,000 children in foster care in 2017.
Colorado: As mentioned in the table above, subsidies vary greatly from county to county—even by as much as hundreds of dollars. It's nearly impossible to find even a general range of rates, so your best bet is to call your county office.
Connecticut: While the Department of Children and Families has information on their website about being a foster parent, it's nearly impossible to find updated subsidy rates.
Delaware: The only subsidy rates table I could find online is from 2009, but the state does provide phone numbers for people looking for more information on fostering.
Washington D.C.: D.C.'s Child and Family Services Agency offers rates effective as of 2010, but it would be best to call the number listed on their site to confirm that these rates are still accurate. In addition, DC Families for DC Kids is a great resource and even holds information sessions for people interested in fostering.
Florida: The state raised its foster care rates at the beginning of 2018 and offers an annual cost of living increase.
Georgia: The state increased foster care per diem rates in 2017 by $10/day but did not increase adoption assistance. This is the first time in over a decade that rates were increased and was done in an effort to recruit new foster parents.
Hawaii: Hawaii last raised its rates in 2014, but as of 2018, the governor is requesting over seven million dollars to raise monthly payments for the nearly 3,000 children in the foster care system.
Illinois: The Foster and Adoptive Coalition has a great information packet for prospective foster parents. While it doesn't list specific subsidy rates, it does go into detail as to what these payments cover.
Indiana: The Department of Child Services issued a slight increase in rates in 2018 to keep up with an increased cost of living. The state offers an abundance of online information and resources for prospective parents.
Kansas: While subsidy rates aren't listed online, KVC Kansas offers resources and information for prospective parents. The organization can also connect you with an advocate to answer any questions or help walk you through the application process.
Louisiana: If you're interested in becoming a foster parent in this state, you can find a breakdown of the subsidies on the state's website. There is also a plethora of information for prospective fosters.
Maine: Unfortunately, Maine's Child and Family Services website is really hard to navigate and doesn't give much information on rates or how to apply to foster. However, Community Cares is a nonprofit that matches children with foster parents and might be worth checking out.
Mayland: Maryland's rates are some of the highest in the country, with close to 5,000 children in foster homes. Foster parents need to be at least 21, and while there is no maximum age, people over the age of 60 will be observed to determine whether their strength is adequate to meet the needs of children in care.
Massachusetts: Due to the opioid crisis, there has been an increase in the number of foster children in this state. The state's government lays out the subsidy rates on their website (one interesting thing is that fosters are given $50 to help pay for a birthday gift and $100 for holiday gifts for each foster child each year).
Michigan: The number of kids in foster homes is close to 13,000. The state offers free orientations for prospective fosters, which would be useful to attend if one is being held in your county. You can also find a breakdown of rates and how the money should be used.
Minnesota: According to the Star Tribune, Minnesota offers some of the highest rates of reimbursement for foster care parents. The Department of Human Services describes the steps to become a foster parent, but it doesn't have a table of rates.
Mississippi: The Department of Child Protection Services breaks down the foster care rates and what they are intended to cover.
Missouri: The state used to have some of the lowest rates but approved an increase in 2017 to make it more competitive with other states, but it's still on lower end. The state provides a breakdown of rates on its website.
Montana: The state does offer some information on fostering a child, but it does not provide rates.
Nebraska: Unfortunately, the state offers very little information for prospective foster care parents. I found rates from 2010, but those are outdated since there was an increase in 2014.
Nevada: The Division of Child and Family Services provides some information on fostering and has a list of rates that were effective as of 2007 (it could be highly possible that the rates haven't been raised since then!).
New Hampshire: New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services offers some great in-depth information on fostering, which includes rates and descriptions of the different levels of care.
New Jersey: While the state doesn't seem to offer current rates, Foster and Adoptive Family Services, a nonprofit, shares this information on their website.
New Mexico: While the state doesn't publish rates online, it does offer free info sessions throughout the state for interested foster parents. It's also easy to be connected with a recruiter who can help answer any questions.
New York: Since each local district sets its own rates, it's difficult to find this information online. The best thing to do is call 1-800-345-KIDS to obtain this info. You can also check out New York's Office of Children and Family Services for general information on fostering.
North Dakota: The North Dakota Department of Human Services published a 135-page handbook that serves as an in-depth guide for foster parents and includes really great information on what the subsidies are meant to cover. However, it doesn't provide exact rates.
Ohio: Ohio is unique in that each county is free to set its own rates. Fortunately, the state lists each county's rate online. In addition, each county must submit this information to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services every year.
Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has rates published online and also offers a hotline you can call if you'd like more information.
Oregon: This state has some of the highest rates in the country and the Department of Human Services shares them online.
Pennsylvania: Since rates vary by county, it's hard to find this information online, but the Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association has a hotline number you can call for more information: 1-800-951-5151.
Rhode Island: The Department of Children, Youth & Families lists rates on their website along with requirements to foster.
South Carolina: The Department of Social Services doesn't list specific rates, but they it does share information on the application process along with frequently asked questions.
South Dakota: The Department of Social Services has a handbook for foster care parents that covers everything from discipline to healthcare costs to visitation. However, this handbook states that rates will be given on application forms and aren't available online.
Tennessee: The Department of Family and Children Services offers a nice little cheat sheet that breaks down the monthly subsidies and clothing allowances according to age.
Texas: The Texas Adoption Resource Exchange holds informational meetings for prospective foster parents, and it's likely that rates are discussed at this meeting. However, you can learn more about the process of fostering on its website.
Utah: Utah Foster Care, which is in partnership with the Division of Child & Family Services, doesn't give any specifics on subsidies but does give some information on how to apply to foster.
Vermont: The Department for Children and Families shares all of the ways foster parents can receive financial support, but it doesn't give specific rates.
Virginia: NewFound Families Virginia, a non-profit, lists the basic maintenance rates according to age.
Washington: The Department of Social and Health Services lists the different rates according to age and the level of care needed.
West Virginia: The Department of Health and Human Resources doesn't give prospective fosters much information online, but it does offer a number to call with any questions: 866-225-5698.
Wisconsin: The Department of Children and Families lists basic maintenance rates for both 2018 and 2019.
Wyoming: The state doesn't list any rates online, but it does offer a little bit of information on its website along with dates/times for free informational sessions for prospective fosters.
Does your payment each month cover your costs?
Questions & Answers
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