The number one online search regarding foster parenting is “How much do foster parents make?”
While we may think that should be the last priority when deciding to become a foster parent, we also understand that people have questions and want to make informed decisions about becoming a resource parent and if it will be a good fit for them. This includes considering the financial aspects.
To answer this popular question, we asked one of our most experienced social workers to break down how much foster parents make in California and the stipend rate structure.
So, how much do foster parents get paid?
Firstly, Foster (aka Resource) Parents don't get what's called a 'paycheck' because they're not employees. But they do get a stipend every single month. The stipend is based on the level of care category that the children have. Their level of care, also known as LOC is determined by the different counties.
How are the stipend rates determined?
The rates are determined at the beginning of every fiscal year. So, we just got our new rates effective July 1st. Every July, the state gives what's called a cost of living increase and that's why our rates change.
The rates are assigned to levels of care or LOC's. The basic care level requires the least amount of resources and services. The more services the child needs, or the more that the resource parent does to assist the child, the higher their care level and stipend rate is going to be.
The stipend rates are determined by the state and the foster child's level of care is determined by the county, not the foster family agencies. Every foster family agency should be following the same regulations.
For example, the LOC-1 or Basic Care rate is currently $1,129. Last year, it was $1,059, but 2022 brought a 6.8% necessities index raise.
Example of rates and structure
A resource family with a child categorized at the basic care, aka LOC-1, level will receive a stipend of $1,129 a month to provide for the needs of that child. They'll get that much for each child that's placed in the home who requires the same level of care.
The stipend check for the resource parents will come in one lump sum, but it contains the stipend for each child. So, let's say you have two kids that are at the basic rate of $1,129, and then you have one that's a LOC-2, which is $1,255.
So, then the resource parent would get one check of $1,129 + $1,129 +$1,255 = $3,513 total.
Can you explain the difference between a stipend and a paycheck?
Yes. Foster parents receive a stipend specifically because these are funds to be allocated towards something, not a paycheck rendered for services. The whole intent behind the stipend is that it is to be used to purchase whatever the children need, making sure that there's food in the house, and everything like that.
When do foster parents get the first stipend?
Their first stipend comes the month following the date of placement. So, let's say, for instance, that a child was placed in a home on Sept 15th. They would get a stipend from the placement date through the end of September. The payment would be received between the 10th -15th of October, the following month. So, their September stipend comes to them in October.
What are the different levels of care and how do they affect the rates?
Each child in foster care is assigned a Level of Care or LOC category. It's important to understand that there's actually five different levels. They are basic rate or LOC-1, and then LOC-2, LOC-3, LOC-4, and the fifth level is ISFC, which stands for Intensive Services Foster Care.
All foster care agencies have the same rate amounts per level. So regardless of foster agency or location, all rates per child at that care level are the same within the state of California.
Is the ISFC a part of every resource parent's training?
All foster parents have training for Basic Care to LOC 2-4 in their certification process to become foster parents. All foster parents get a general overview of intensive services foster care. If they want to become certified as an Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC) family, they have to go through additional training due to the higher level of care and attention which behaviorally challenged children need.
Specialized Care Increment
Now there have been some recent changes. In the last couple of years we have seen a "specialized care increment" introduced to the stipend structure. This increment allows more funds for kids that are in LOC 1-4 and need an additional bit of extra support, but are not necessarily an intensive services child.
So, the counties have a rate scale for that too. It could be anywhere from $300 on up. The funds go directly to the resource parent.
So, when you're talking about that sliding scale with LOC, and it's $300, you're saying that's going to be a basic rate plus $300 for care?
Yes, if they have a specialized care increment. Remember, not all kids are going to get a specialized care increment. It's important that resource parents know that the rates are predetermined by the state and all the counties have the same rates.
Does the stipend go towards paying for services for the foster child?
It really depends on the type of service. Most of the kids have Medi-Cal, or IEHP that covers their mental health services and their medical and dental needs.
But let's say, for instance, they wanted to play the guitar. Guitar lessons would come out of the stipend. Sports, art classes, and other extracurricular activities costs would also come out of the stipend.
This is a lot! What resources do you give the prospective foster parents?
In the pre-approval training, we go over the stipend, what the stipends would be used for, etc. Since COVID, we aren't able to do that in person anymore, so we do trainings and meetings via Zoom to explain all this information to the resource parents.
What do potential foster parents need to know about money and foster care?
Focusing on money is the wrong mindset. If potential foster parents think it's going to be an additional income for them, they're looking at it the wrong way. The whole purpose of being a research parent is to reach up and help a child in need. The child's needs are met through the stipend. But if they think that they're going to get rich, and be able to stay home and get all this extra money, their motivation is wrong.
The motivation has to be because they truly want to help children.
I have always said, when I am talking to people about being a resource parent or even a social worker, it is not a job. It is a calling. It is a passion. Because if it's not a calling or a passion, you won't be able to get through it, because it's difficult.
But I can honestly say, the vast majority of my resource families out here love the children placed in their homes and would adopt the children if they could. Just in the last 3 months, we've had six adoptions.
They buy season passes for them to go to Disneyland. They treat them just like family members. These are the kind of resource parents that you want. When the first question a potential resource parent asks is, "How much money do we get?" that wouldn't disqualify them in the process, but as a social worker I am asking them "Why are you in this?"
If you feel called to help a child in need and become a foster parent, we encourage you to take the next steps. Reach out to us by clicking on the link below to contact us and get more information.
Note: this blog was written in Sept. 2022 and rates are subject to change each year.