Ever wonder about what it costs to be a foster parent? What you have to pay for? If you're like most folks, you've probably never considered it, but if you're one of my loyal readers it may have crossed your mind. In fact, this could have easily been a Foster Parent Friday question as well, probably in this form:
"Do you have to buy all their clothes?"
"Doesn't it get expensive to pay for diapers for 2 babies?"
"How much do you get paid?"
As a foster parent, you are responsible for providing for most of the day-to-day expenses related to caring for kids. Diapers? Yep (FYI - about $80 p/month). Clothes? If they need them. Cribs? Blankets? Food? Yep, yep, yep. Foster parents have to pay for all of those things.
What about if you have a crib and you get a placement with an older child? Well, then, you have to either deny the placement (tell them no), or, go buy a bed for the older child. What if you have one baby in a crib, have a toddler bed, and get a call for another 9 month old? Well, you go to Walmart and buy a convertible crib for that baby too. Hope you enjoy that crib little girl : )
Car seats? They only last for 5 years, so if they are old or have been in an accident you need to replace them anyway, but if you don't have the right size then you need to go buy one. What if you have room in your car for 3 car seats, need 3 car seats, but you only have 2 that are too big to fit with a 3rd in the back seat of a corolla? You go out and buy 3 new ones. (in case you are curious, with very careful looking you can find 3 car seats for 3 different ages that fit in the back seat of a corolla - but it's tight!). We now own 5 car seats and need one more so we can have 3 for each car with our 3 kiddos. But, if we ended up getting a small infant next then we would need to get ourselves an infant car seat too. And infant toys to go with them (but we have 2 pack in plays, a swing, 4 ride-on toys, a bouncy exersaucer thing (not the one that goes in the door jam, that's against minimum standards), 2 tricycles, 3 strollers, and a whole host of other things.
You definitely learn the ins and outs of planning for versatility. Case in point - before June we'll need to replace our current drop-side crib with a new one and when we do, a convertible will be in order. Thankfully we have 4 attics.
On average, since we started fostering, our initial investment per child for the first month is about $1500. That will go down the more kiddos we have since we won't always be providing them with new car seats and beds and the expensive things, but we will most always have at least $1000 for daycare costs.
Which brings up things we don't pay for - daycare being one of them. Daycare is provided as long as funding is available and only when both parents work full-time as in our case. Of course, that is at a lower rate, in our case $15 per day - so either you have to find a facility that is prepared to take the state funding AND is willing to take only that amount or you have to supplement the fees out of your own pocket. And, trust me, not all daycares take the state funding - relatively few do. You also don't pay for any medical or dental care - that is covered by medicaid. The thing about medicaid is that your choice of doctors are limited and getting into a new doctor with new kids can be tricky. But, foster parents learn all the tricks about foster friendly clinics, hospitals, and emergency rooms which does help. This help with medical care is very helpful because otherwise foster parents wouldn't be able to insure with private insurance - foster children don't count as dependents in that case. We also don't pay for early-childhood intervention (ECI) testing or services when needed, and it is often needed.
The great news is that foster parents do receive money from the state to help pay for the costs. The rate is $22 per day, per child designated as "basic" level care. Rates go up from there for higher levels of care (but we're not licensed for those levels of care). So, for 2 kids we receive about $1300 per month. Considering we don't pay for daycare (but would be responsible if funding ran out!) this does help pay for most if not all of their expenses each month.
Just to clarify - foster care is primarily provided at the state level - so different states have different rates, different things they might or might not cover. Also, we're licensed directly through the state - if you get licensed through a private agency there may be additional financial support like clothing allowances, continuing education course funds, or childcare for special events.
Receiving this monthly support really helps make it easy to provide care for foster children. Some people talk about folks out there who do it for the money - I couldn't imagine that at all - but not having to worry about what medical expenses might come up or how much diapers might cost definitely helps when it comes to welcoming new kiddos into our home on a regular basis. While some parents have to wrestle with their budget every time they go through the process of deciding if they will have more kids - all we have to do is wait by the phone and say yes when they call! ; )