Let’s talk about money
This is the thing that many foster parents would like to ask about, but are afraid to. Most decent people who are foster parents don’t want to be seen as one of “THOSE” foster parents. There are so many horror stories out there about foster families that neglected or abused the children in their care. Kids have died in foster care. We have heard and seen plenty first hand to verify that there are indeed those families out there.
There aren’t any hard and fast numbers, but the average kid will cost about 190K for 18 years. The teen years are the most expensive, with clothes and gadgets and peer pressure. No teen wants to go around in second hand clothes all the time (well, I did, but I was weird and found solace at thrift stores).
There are some other estimates that a teenager will cost about $13K/year.
I work, Leonard is in school, and Ziggy is in part time daycare. My salary plus a small inheritance is enough to keep our bodies and souls in the same place and pay for his classes. Starting soon, Leonard will need to take out loans for school. When we took on being foster parents, we had about a month and a half in expenses in the bank Not great, but we thought we’d be o.k.
The girls came to us in April, and then Joan (a girl who was with us for three months and caused considerable upheaval) came in May. By the middle of July we were both scraping the bottom of our bank accounts.
Foster agencies have a month long lag in payments. They do this because you have to fill in a stack of expense reports at the end of every month. This includes mileage, related costs such as any medically necessary expenses or other things, and a list over who stayed at your house on what days.
If the kid is not in your home, you don’t get paid for that time. This can be different if the kid is Therapeutic Foster Care level, but those TFC rules are different state to state.
You get a per/day allocation of funds, based on many factors such as where you live, the need of the child (TFC or not) and what the agencies keep to manage overhead costs. The State Agency that funds foster care pays the agencies, and then they pay their foster parents. Our agency pays pretty well, about $23/day.
That is $8395/year. Remember, the average teen costs around $13000 a year. This covers food, clothing, electronics, the increased water and electric bills, cell phone bills, personal hygiene (do you know how much teen girls need in hygiene care?), after school program fees, summer program fees, enrichment activity costs, room decoration needs, school supplies, etc.
This stipend is not designed to compensate your time. One of the reason that TFC rates are higher is the agency assumes that if you have TFC youth living with you, one parent is spending a significant amount of time taking care of the kids, and therefore unable to work. In the case of behaviorally diagnosed TFC kids, this also includes an increased level of payment to cover things like financial incentives for good behavior.
Now, all medical costs should be covered, which in the case of these girls is a huge blessing. But we’re still pinching pennies, and only just now after 3 months of looking at unsustainably low bank accounts, starting to see our savings build back up. Part of the reason for the long delay was because of ongoing arguments about what their rate should actually be, as well as a freeze in payments to the agency from the State. That’s right, there was actually about 3 weeks where the agencies weren’t getting paid their normal rates while the State held contract negotiations.
Just keep in mind as you get started as a foster parent that there may be a delay in payment. Be assertive, even pushy, if you think the agency isn’t being fair. At least at our agency, we’ve found that they are reasonable if you present them with something that’s reasonable.
Tomorrow we send Grace out into the world with some money to buy clothes. One of her family members is going to come and help her, and I’m sending her with a list. But I still worry… is she going to be able to do this, or are we setting ourselves up to head back for a returns trip on Wednesday? Money management at it’s finest.