We complete our two-part exploration into money and foster care by covering the costs of becoming and being a foster parent, also known as a resource parent. If you want to know how much money foster parents receive, be sure to check out our last blog Q&A: How Much Do Foster Parents Get Paid?
Once again, we sat down with one of our most experienced social workers and asked questions about the cost of being a foster parent. We’ll explain the upfront expenses of the certification process and the regular costs of taking care of your foster child or children. If you’re nervous about expenses, we can assure you it’s doable for most households! If you feel called to help foster children, keep reading to get your questions answered! We also invite you to reach out to us if you have any further questions.
How Much Does Certification to become a Foster Parent Cost?
There will be upfront costs to do fingerprint clearances, first aid, and CPR trainings, but all expenses for the certification process will be reimbursed. Luckily, most insurances cover the medical physicals. However, depending on a prospective foster parent’s situation, there can be costs that are technically expenses for everyday life but may be incurred during the approval process.
One example is owning and maintaining their car. There are inspections on the cars to make sure they're safe for children and if repairs or tune ups are needed, they will be at the expense of the potential parent. Any expenses related to their home, like homeowner's insurance or repairs, will also be out of pocket.
When you’re a foster parent, there is a little bit of leeway to home and car expenses. Foster parents can use some of their stipend to pay for the electricity, food, transportation and wear and tear on their house because we understand that caring for children can cause these things.
Foster agencies will reimburse new foster parents after they have been certified and have had a placement for at least 30 days. These are for the first aid, CPR, and fingerprint clearances. These expenses are reimbursed because they are necessary for someone to become a foster parent.
Occasionally, people begin the foster parent approval process and decide it is not for them. Because of these situations, we reimburse resource parents after they become certified and after a successful placement.
Before becoming a foster parent, each resource family we certify must show us they can pay for their own bills with their own income. The stipend for the children is not meant for the foster parents to pay their bills outside of what supports a foster child.
We know that there's going to be some wear and tear on their house, so they can use some of the funds for electricity and food. However, they cannot take their stipend monies and use it for themselves by putting it in a personal savings or checking account and not paying for what their foster children need.
Expenses and Spending Stipend Funds
The stipend is to care for the needs of the child. Right now, foster parents are required to spend at least $83 a month on their foster children. They can purchase clothing for the kids, give them an allowance that is appropriate for their age, and provide for other needs that arise. Spending these funds is a state requirement.
The amount parents need to spend a month changes every year and is determined by the state, just like how they update stipend amounts per child. Every July, regulations come down from the state in terms of how much their allowance and clothing funding needs to increase.
We can track spending because we have receipts from the foster parents showing that they purchased the clothing, shoes, and any other items. We track the allowances through a document the kids must sign verifying they got their allowance every week.
Some counties, at the beginning of the school year, will draft another warrant for some extra monies in order to go out and buy the children's school clothes. We still collect receipts for the spending of these extra funds and keep them with the foster child’s file.
Can they scan and email you the receipts, or do they need to physically bring them into an office?
We used to be able to have copies of the receipts, but now we need the originals. Social workers go out to the houses and collect what we call the “monthly tasks”. During this once-a-month visit, the social worker will collect receipts and record allowances have been met. To clarify, our social workers visit homes once a week, but once a month they collect the receipts.
When Do Foster Parents Receive their First Stipend?
Their first stipend comes the month following the date of placement. For instance, if a child was placed in a home today, the foster parent would get a stipend for today's date through the end of the month on the 10th to the 15th of the following month.
Unexpected Foster Parent Expenses
One of the difficult realities of foster care is when the kids come in with nothing. If the kids have no clothes or personal items, the resource parents will have to pay up front for that.
Usually, those purchases will count as part of the required $83 a month they spend on that child, or we try to get them an additional warrant from the county for additional clothes.
However, a lot of our parents just go out and buy it. Their mentality is that the kids need it so they will just buy it. Which is aligned with the mentality of a good foster parent who wants to care for their child.
It’s Not About the Money
Being a foster parent isn’t a way to make money, nor is it a way to lose money. It’s about taking care of a child in need and partnering with the state to have resources to provide for them. Taking care of a foster child or teen isn’t reserved only for people with a lot of money.
If you are financially stable and able to provide for yourself and/or your family, then you have the means to foster parent. It doesn’t take a big house or fancy car– just a desire to help a child and a willingness to complete some basic certifications and training.
Our Victor FFA resource parents come from a variety of backgrounds, including varying levels of income. But what they all have in common is a desire to become foster or adoptive, parents. If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, or have specific questions, we encourage you to click the link below to contact with us.