I’m a foster parent. Do I get paid? Yes. Would I do it for free? Yes. Should I do it for free? Absolutely not. Foster parents sacrifice daily to care for little ones who deserve love, shelter, and consistency. No amount of money could ever satisfy that need. That being said, foster parents do not receive an income; we receive a reimbursement. We receive a stipend to reimburse us for many things that “regular” parents may spend on their kids, but there is so much more! Below are some additional things that foster parents must provide at a moment’s notice for the needs of the child:
1. Additional bedding
When placed with a foster child, the first question that should come to mind is, “Where will he or she sleep?” After all, he or she will be spending eight hours of every day there. A crib, twin bed, or bunk bed may be a significant purchase—not to mention sheets, blankets, and a dresser drawer to hold all the bedding.
2. More food
Have you ever fed a teenage boy? How about three? I have. I remember Sunday mornings making 21 pancakes and feeling that it was not quite enough. It was like feeding an army! Many foster children have anxiety about not having enough to eat. The last thing the kid needs to see is an empty cupboard or refrigerator. That is not to say that the fridge needs to be fully stocked every day, but no child should ever go hungry in a foster home.
3. Additional transportation
In addition to regular trips to school, doctors, etc., a foster parent must transport children to counseling, family visits, court, Child Protective Services, and additional places that other parents don’t go. It goes without saying that an extra foster child may need an extra car seat. But, if you are already a family of five and you have one vehicle that has only five seats, what do you do when placed with a young child? You must have a car seat and safety restraint for each child in your vehicle. Many foster parents opt to buy an additional vehicle or a larger vehicle. That is a significant purchase that most people can’t afford without assistance.
4. Additional diapers and clothes
Do you know what a pack of diapers costs these days? How about a pair of sneakers? Go ahead and check the prices on the Web. Those prices tend to go up every year. Foster children often enter care with nothing more than the clothes on their back and the diaper on their bottom. Your job as a foster parent is to clothe that foster child in the same manner you would your biological child. That means if you regularly shop for your children at Target or J.C. Penney, then that’s where you ought to be shopping for your foster children. Yes, that can get costly, especially if you have more than one foster child.
5. Additional entertainment
Taking the whole family to the movies nowadays is quite a financial undertaking. And don’t get me started on taking a family of four to a professional ball game! Sure, foster families need to be experts in finding free events. But shouldn’t a foster child experience the normalcy of attending a circus or county fair or theme park at least once in his or her life, like every other kid? Entertainment needs to be figured into the budget of every foster family.
6. Extracurricular activities
Many foster children have not experienced Little League or Boy Scouts or drama classes or ballet lessons. High School football equipment can cost upwards of $200… per year! And don’t get me started on prom dresses! Wouldn’t it be great to provide that for a foster kid? It may be the child’s only opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities. These activities help a child to develop physically and socially and to feel included.
7. Multiple kids
Sure, biological parents may be surprised when the doctor announces they are having twins. How much more when foster parents find out they are having a large sibling group placed with them! Tomorrow! Ages 12, 13, and 14 years old! Sibling groups ought to be placed together to avoid the trauma of being further removed from their family. But finding a skilled foster parent that is willing to care for a sibling group of three is rare. Shouldn’t they be compensated for doing so?
As you can see, the money a foster parent receives is a drop in the bucket. Furthermore, the money is not specifically for the foster parent, but for the well-being of the child. No one is getting rich from foster parenting. And if you are considering fostering strictly for the money, it won’t be worth it. The goal is to provide that child with a well-rounded upbringing until reunification or other permanency plans can be made. Foster parents need to concentrate on meeting the child’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social needs without worrying about their own financial needs. Reimbursement goes a long way in doing just that.