Over the years, I have heard the phrases “they do it for the money” and “they just want a check” more times than I can count. Foster parents do receive a monthly stipend to assist for the care of the children they welcome into their homes to assist with purchasing necessities: food, clothing, hygiene items, education, childcare, medical costs not covered by insurance, and other needed items. This payment ranges from $527.57-$1,091 in the state of Alabama, which averages out to be $17.02-$35.19 per day.
This rate is determined by the level of care required, age of child, physical, emotional, or behavioral needs of the child, illness or disability requiring at home nursing care, and medically fragile children. For example, if you foster a sixteen-year-old who has an illness requiring at home nursing care, at maximum, you will be provided $35.19 per day to care for this child. Each state varies on their base range of monetary assistance. For more information on your state specific rates, contact your local Department of Human Resources.
Now that we have established that monetary income is not the driving force for foster families, let us take a look into what foster parents actually “make.” Foster families make warm, loving environments for children to live in. Foster families make safe spaces in an unpredictable world. Foster families heal and restore childhoods to our nation’s most vulnerable individuals. With this comes the rewiring of a nervous system and neural connections, opportunities to break cycles, and healing of negative attachment styles that will help these children grow to be emotionally healthy adults all at the price of $34.19 per day.
QnA with a Foster Mom
Recently, I was provided the opportunity to interview a local foster mother, *Sara, who was willing to provide insight into her experience, along with ‘what do foster parents make?’:
I: Sara, could you explain what you are provided with when a child is placed in your care?
S: Sometimes you are given a voucher, sometimes you are not. One time we were given a $50 voucher for an infant who came with nothing. That baby had no clothes, formula, bottles, diapers, or anything. They needed a change of everything when they got to us. Also, it was after 10:00pm during the pandemic, so all stores were closed.
I: It seems many people are under the assumption that foster parents receive a check or direct deposit only for transactions. Can you explain what a voucher is?
S: We do receive a check, somewhere around a month after being given a child. The payment is not near enough to cover for what a child needs though. A voucher is like a gift certificate to Walmart (or whatever store you local Department writes them) for a few necessities when you are given a child. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you do not. You need to have all the basics on hand for whatever age range you are fostering. You never know what a child will have and what they will not. Some come to you with absolutely nothing and it can be in the middle of the night.
I: What led you to become a foster parent?
S: We dealt with infertility and recurrent losses. After two years of infertility treatments, drugs, and testing, my husband and I decided that adoption was the route we wanted to go. It was never a question for us on how we would try to adopt. We had our minds made up that we wanted to give a child that needed a home a loving family, not sit on a waiting list for two years.
I: Wow, it is amazing you altered your path to not only make your dreams come true, but also the dreams of so many children you have not even met yet. What would you say you have truly “made’ in becoming a foster parent (not monetarily)?
S: As foster parents we have made memories…and lots of emotions. You do not think you are going to get so attached, but you do. You get attached to kids you never thought you would. Even the kids who push your buttons will be in your thoughts long after they leave your home.
I: What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a foster parent?
S: Do not go into it expecting anything. It will not be like anything like you think. Also, learn to say no. You will absolutely get asked to take on cases that you did not put in your file, and you have to know your limits. You cannot take on a child with behaviors or needs outside of what you can handle because of the guilt that comes with saying “no.” Family limitations vastly differ. For us, we had a preschool-aged child going into this, so we knew there was a lot we could not take on because of the safety of our son.
How to Become a Foster Parent
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, like Sara, contact your local Department of Human Resources to receive recruitment information. You never know what you can make in opening your heart and home to a child or sibling group in need.
~ Haley Roberts has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Auburn University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of New England. She has worked in the field of foster care as a Moderate Care Residential Program Therapist. Haley is a Licensed Master Social Worker by the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners.
 North American Council on Adoptable Children nacac.org
 Personal interview-Sara Greg-name changed for privacy