Yes and no. If a regular parent sacrifices and shows unconditional love for their child, how much more a foster parent! Foster parents sacrifice daily to not only take their child to school and to the doctor but also to counseling, to court, and to family visits. Foster parents may also care for a child who has a disability, behavior issues, or chronic illnesses. Many people would foster for free but such sacrifice does need to be rewarded. Below are general guidelines regarding foster parents’ finances, but they vary somewhat from state to state. Consult your state’s local child welfare office for more details.
Fostering is not a job, per se. Therefore, foster parents do not receive an income or “paychecks.” However, foster parents do receive a stipend for room, board, and daily essentials. “Professional” foster parents do consider fostering a job and one parent must be at home full time due to the intense behavioral needs of the children in their care.
Foster care stipend
Regular foster parents receive a stipend for the care of their foster children. Depending on your state, the first stipend may come with the social worker when she drops off the child at your home. Or the stipend can come after the child has spent a calendar month in your home.
Foster parents do get reimbursed a Daily Bed Rate. The reimbursement is distributed according to the needs of the child. The higher the needs, the higher the stipend. They may also receive additional reimbursement for clothing, mileage, and other items.
Each foster child also comes with their state’s health insurance, their version of Medicaid. Foster parents need not worry about paying out of pocket for trips to the doctor, the emergency room or prescription medication. The state insurance will also cover counseling or any other type of behavioral health or mental health needs your child has.
A stipend does not need to be listed as income or reported as income to the IRS on your taxes. However, foster parents may be able to claim a foster child as a dependent on their taxes if: 1) you have had state custody of a foster child; 2) they have resided in your home for six months or more the previous year; 3) they are 18 years old or less and 4) if no one else claims the child. You will need the child’s full name, date of birth and valid Social Security number. Consult your tax advisor. Look at the IRS website for more information about claiming your foster child as a dependent.
Bottom line: you won’t become rich by becoming a foster parent, but you won’t go broke either. If you are doing it for the money, it won’t be worth it. That being said, fostering is one of the richly rewarding experiences one could have. It is a matter of unconditional love and the joy of transforming one life at a time. That is its own reward.
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have eight children, six of which are adopted. His adopted children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast, and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption are his passions and callings and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.