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How Much Do You Get Paid to Be a Foster Parent?

I Am a Foster Parent and This Is What I Get Paid

Photographer: Julia Van ArsdaleEditorial and internal use approved. OK for Native and co-branded content.

My husband and I began fostering an infant a few months ago and were immediately flooded with questions from friends, family, and strangers. The most asked question surprisingly is: how much money do you get paid to be a foster parent? I do my best to move past the thought that they're asking this because they assume I'm only "in it for the money" and give an honest answer. Foster parents aren't actually "paid." They're reimbursed a set amount each month as determined by the county in which they reside.

Foster parents aren't actually "paid." They're reimbursed a set amount each month as determined by the county in which they reside.

In Northern California, where I'm licensed as a foster parent, the reimbursement ranges from $25 to $30 per day. This amount is per child and increases if you care for special needs children, but does not vary based on the age of the child. Some counties also provide childcare coverage so you can work while being a foster parent without being responsible for the entire cost of childcare. There are also programs that offer free clothing for foster children and gifts during the holidays, and many foster children are eligible for WIC (which doesn't come close to covering the formula we need for our chubby foster baby whose main hobby is eating). It typically takes a few months for the reimbursements to kick in; once they do, you're reimbursed once a month for the previous month.

Whenever I tell people the amount we receive, almost everyone says, "Wow! You're making so much money for just taking care of a child." Whenever someone says this, I remind them that there is no financial incentive to foster; this money is to help cover the child's expenses. The amount we have spent fostering is far higher than the reimbursements we have received. The amount we have spent fostering goes to diapering, clothing, and caring for our foster baby.

Foster parents are also required to provide all the essential items needed to care for a child. In our first month caring for an infant, we spent thousands on furniture, clothing, car seats, formula, bottles, diapers, strollers, and safety gear required by the county like kitchen cabinet locks and fire extinguishers. Yes, we could have spent a little less on clothing (hello, cute onesies), but we were well aware we would go over the reimbursement amount after seeing how cute baby shoes are.

I like to compare being a foster parent to a full-time job (that also requires managing late-night diaper blowouts).

I like to compare being a foster parent to a full-time job (that also requires managing late-night diaper blowouts). When taking into account the sleepless nights, transportation to supervised visits with the biological parents, regular doctors visits, home visits from social workers, and meetings with the child's legal support team or court-appointed special advocate, $25 to $30 per day hardly covers these extra responsibilities while also providing care and support for a child.

While foster parents do receive reimbursement for a portion of their expenses, financial gain is not an incentive to foster. What you gain from fostering isn't monetary. It's about the opportunity to make a vulnerable child feel safe and loved, and that is priceless.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Julia Van Arsdale
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