One of the biggest questions prospective foster parents have may be how they will financially support a foster child. In today’s weak economy many families are facing increasing financial pressure and, despite good intentions, may feel that they simply cannot take on the financial requirements of a foster child. The good news is the state will help financially support the foster family on behalf of the foster child. If you are considering becoming a foster parent here is what you need to know about supporting a foster child.
• Board and Care Rates
The annual board rate is set according to the child’s age. It is intended to reimburse foster parents for the cost of caring for the child. Foster parents will receive schedules for the current board rate and payment standards. The Department of Social Services for each county usually sets their own rates up to the maximum allowed.
Generally, there are three foster care payment categories for foster homes: Basic, Special and Exceptional. Basic foster care payments are made to foster parents who are providing care for a child who has no identified special or exceptional needs. Your local agency must designate within 90 days of placement whether the child’s needs are Basic, Special or Exceptional. Keep in mind, though, that the designation can be changed at any point during placement as the child’s needs change. To receive special or exceptional payments, you will need to demonstrate your ability to care for children with special or exceptional conditions using your past training and experience or by completing special training.
You will also need to participate in agency training every year and actively participate in case conferences. You must be able to work with the professionals who are involved in the child’s treatment plan; you must also be able to accept assistance and guidance from them in caring for the child. Special and Exceptional rates are approved by the local Department of Social Services. Either a caseworker or a foster parent must submit a request for the special or exceptional rate. Should the level of difficulty in caring for the child change because the child’s need for care and supervision changes, the board rate will change as well. In addition the services expected of the foster parents will also change accordingly.
• Clothing Allowances
Each county’s Department of Social Services sets their own clothing allowance rates up to the maximum allowed. A regular clothing allowance will be based on the child’s maximum age, is included with the board rate and is paid as a part of the monthly check. An emergency clothing allowance may be obtained in special situations. A diaper allowance is also automatically authorized for children from birth through three years of age. If a child only needs diapers during the night then a partial diaper allowance can be authorized.
• Child Care
In some counties the Department of Social Services will make payments for day care, when necessary, for the care and supervision of children in care if the foster parent is employed. Child care expenses for purposes other than employment become the foster parent’s responsibility. However, foster parents may be reimbursed for child care if they are attending training.
The board and care rate will also include the cost of normal transportation. Transportation provided by foster parents for visits to an authorized agency, the foster child’s parents, siblings living with relatives or in a different foster or adoptive home and meetings about the child may be reimbursed at a rate set by the county. When the goal is returning the children to their home, the agency must provide transportation assistance, if necessary, to make it possible for visits with their parent(s) at least every two weeks.
• School-Related Expenses
School expenses, such as books, activity fees, costs of field trips, school club dues and art supplies may be reimbursed. This includes special attire for senior proms, graduation, school jewelry or pictures or religious ceremonies may also be reimbursed. Tutoring expenses can be reimbursed if the service is remedial and is requested in writing by the school and is not available from any other source. In addition, special recreational, hobby and extracurricular activity expenditures may also be reimbursed. This can include music, art and dancing lessons that are not provided in school. The purchase or rental of equipment and membership and participation in organized groups, such as the Y, Scouts or Little League may also be reimbursable.
• Damage or Loss of Property
Some agencies may even consider compensation to foster parents for damage to and loss of personal property that is caused by a child in their care if the costs are not covered by the foster parents’ insurance.
• Miscellaneous Expenses
This can include extraordinary communication expenses for a child in care to maintain telephone contact with his or her parents and/or siblings.