Friday, July 5, 2013

Getting Rich On Foster Care: The Great Myth

by John
I got a message the other day from a fellow foster parent. She just needed to vent as she had just had a disturbing conversation with a good friend of hers.

 “Sarah” (not her real name) has adopted 3 children out of the foster care system, all with complex issues like attachment disorders etc. Her friend is aware of the difficult behavioral and medical issues Sarah deals with on a daily basis with all three of her children.

However, during their friendly conversation, her friend made a comment about how nice it was that Sarah didn’t “have to work” because she gets state aide for her children. 

Sarah was really offended, because, of course, now that she has adopted her children, she gets no special financial aide, even though she is dealing with these pre-existing issues, but even when she was fostering them, her friend assumed she was “making a lot of money” doing foster care.

During my talk with Sarah, she made a point I have heard over and over again from Foster parents.  There is a huge misconception from people about Foster parents. Somehow people think that families actually MAKE money doing foster care!

How did this belief come about? The only thing I could think of is from the horrible news stories of abusive foster parents who starve and neglect foster children and pocket the money they receive to care for them.

The truth is this, and feel free to print this out and share it with your friends and family when this discussion comes up. 

The average foster family gets about $14. A day for an average child who has no outstanding physical or behavioral issues (at least that are known at time of intake.)

Children that have complex issues, like attachment disorders, extreme anger or behavioral problems, kids that will threaten and verbally abuse you, and destroy your home … those kids you’ll get about $20 a day for… but only after jumping through hoops and begging and pleading for it.  (This is based on my experience only, in my home state of Michigan,)

Now, subtract from that number the following:

· Clothing
· Medical costs
· Food
· Costs to repair your home from the damage they do to it
· The value of your time because you need to drive them to appointments, counseling, you go to court dates, meet with social workers and counselors, have home visits, deal with police visits, and phone calls in the middle of the night. Etc.

· Costs of sports equipment and uniforms for school
· School supplies
· Games and toys
· Educational tools
· And everything else you would supply for your own kids.

You also invest all of your time… just like you would your own kids, and for troubled kids, you spend extra time which means you aren’t available for your own wife, husband or kids.

So, why do we do it? For one reason.  We believe in trying to help others. For myself, it’s the joy of seeing children get better or going back to their homes. Seeing them grow up and be happy… it’s part of what I do in my faith.

If you enjoy life and children and you believe they are seeds that God has given us to take care of, then you know that when you help a child you feel closer to God.   You are happier doing that then any thing else, so you can’t do it for the money. You do it because you love it.

Have you had to defend your foster care “career?” What have you said, how have you dealt with misconceptions? Please share your stories. 

Attribution Some rights reserved by SILENTMONOLOGUE


  1. A sister-in-law once said to me, "Must be nice. Biological parents don't get paid for their children." My husband and I took in a family member's child when she was 2 1/2 years old (we were her 4th foster home at the time) and 2 years later adopted her. She has FASD, AD/HD, RAD, ODD, a mood disorder, Asthma, severe/life-threatening food allergies (all nuts, chocolate, and milk, dairy, casein, and whey), significant learning disabilities, and well, that's quite a bit. The $20/day we receive is pretty much gone as soon as it is deposited to cover her constant need for social skills classes, camps, gas going back and forth to her behavior clinic and therapy appointments, to the allergist and pediatrician, and for her meds and special diet. Some people will never get it. God bless you and your work, and may God continue to bless your friend, "Sara."

    1. Thank you so much for commenting, you are a perfect example of what we are talking about. You are doing a wonderful thing for this child... thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your story.

  2. Spot on. I am a foster parent. I do it for the children! I also work at a daytime job full-time. Most of the time, I get zero reimbursements for sotering. My respite and foster billing requests to the state get "lost." Chasing the paperwork after it's submitted is exhausting. When people ask me what I'm paid for fostering, I say, "I definitely get paid in miles of smiles from my foster kids, but from the state, not so much -- about $15 a day." Then I say, "That pays for the diapers and that's about it."

    1. Thanks for commenting Anonymous, and thanks for the work that you do.....

  3. Now the group-homes, many of them ARE getting rich off foster-care. Some of them have day-rates more than hotels, $120-$200/day of government-funding is not uncommon for kids with moderate or severe behavioral needs. Multiply that by the number of kids in the facility, subtract 30% to pay the 24/hour staff that is typically at a 10:2 ratio or worse and then you understand motivations as to why many kids remain in group-homes without even having a photolisting-profile to enable them to transition into a family-setting.