How Much Do You Really Make?

As we went through our foster training, I soaked up any piece of information I could get. I took notes in class. I read every book the library had about foster care. I read blogs and articles. I seriously did as much research as I possibly could.

And no matter what I read, I could not get a straight answer on the question, “How much do you make as foster parents?”

The most common responses were, “A daily stipend” (not helpful), “It varies by state” (also not helpful), and “It varies by age” (also not helpful).

Someone even asked straight-out in certification class one time and we STILL didn’t get a straight answer! It wasn’t until we had Little Miss in our home and I received a massive manual that I actually found an straight answer.

So maybe I’m breaking some kind of unspoken rule, here, but I’m going to straight out answer this question. I’m a little nervous, because like I said…NO ONE will talk about it! It’s totally taboo. And I’m about to do it.

So here’s the straight answer:

$20/a day.

We live in Ohio. We have an infant.

We receive two checks a month, and it totals to around $600 a month.

Let’s break it down into some more detail, though.

While we are free to pocket that entire amount with no questions asked, there are many other factors to consider here.

First, remember that we are buying basic necessities like diapers, wipes and formula and food.

Diapers ($50-$75/month) + wipes ($20/month) + formula ($125-$150/month) + food ($60/month) = approximately $275/month.

Guys, that’s the basics. That’s not including clothes, bedding, diaper rash cream, puffs, and any baby equipment that might be needed. We were lucky and got a placement who happens to be the same gender and just a few months younger than the child we already have.  This saved big money in the clothing and equipment area.

To be fair, any foster child under the age of 5 automatically qualifies for WIC. WIC covers the cost of a significant chunk of the formula (about $100/month) and all of the baby food listed above ($60/month). We are so thankful for the aid of WIC!

So, what do we do with the rest of the money? Children’s Services provides a “guideline” for what should be done with the money. It lays it out like this:

Basic Maintenance (those basics listed above): $415/month

Clothing: $30/month

Respite and Babysitting: $30/month

School/Supplies: $15/month


Since Theo and I live well below the average American income,and we tend to live really frugally, we do find that the $600/month is more than enough to provide the basics for a child. However, we rarely (if ever) buy clothes and we have never bought a single piece of baby equipment for Little Miss.

For those of you who are stopping by because you are interested in foster care but aren’t sure if you are able to cover it financially, I will say this (hear me loud and clear): DO NOT LET FINANCES BE THE MAIN REASON YOU CHOSE NOT TO FOSTER. I assure you that the per diem (stipend) is enough to cover supporting an extra child. I also will mention this: Children’s Services (at least ours!) is super great at providing “scholarships” or “refunds” for pretty much anything. You have to fill out lots of paperwork and you may even have to make up reasons that the child NEEDS this item, but they are most likely to reimburse you.

For example, if your foster daughter wants to take dance class, you can fill out a super long and detailed form listing all the reasons why you think dance class would be in the best interest of the child. You may say things like “It will teach her discipline, it will teach her self-worth, she will be able to focus on her core strength, it will help her build relationships, it will help her relax and be in tune with music”. Even though the real answer is, “She really, really wants to take a dance class”.

You will get help paying for day care if you are both working parents, as well as help paying for any extracurriculars older children may be involved in. I mean, if your kid picks snowmobiling as an extracurricular you might be paying a lot of money out of pocket for all the equipment, but children’s services will pay for the lessons as long as you can convince them that it’s all in the best interest of the child!

So, back to that question: What do we do with the money?

Well, to be perfectly honest…we keep it. We deposit the checks into our bank account and we use it. Of course, we use it for food, diapers, wipes, babysitting, clothes, etc. for Little Miss. We treat her like she’s another member of our family. I’ve heard of a lot of people who chose to open a bank account for their foster child and put some or all of the money into it for the child.

It does feel kind of strange to get paid to raise a child, but Theo and I have agreed on what we are doing with the money, and that is to keep it.

So here is my conclusion on the finance section of foster care:

  • Foster care will not make you go broke. Children’s services will help you out and you will at least break even. I assure you. They will cover the costs.
  • Foster care will not make you rich. Trust me. I always wonder about those stories of people who go into it for the money. I mean…if I wanted to do something to earn money, it probably wouldn’t be taking in traumatized children who need a temporary home, that we will eventually have to say goodbye to. But maybe that’s just me.


As always…feel free to send me an email ([email protected]) if you have any questions. Please feel free to leave a comment below, too! I always welcome those!

And those of you who are reading along who are foster parents: what do you do with your stipend? Do you find the breakdown provided realistic? Do you find that you are paying a lot out of pocket? Do you put some aside for the foster children, or are you selfish like us and pocket it all?

One comment

  1. Julia Hostetler says:

    How brave of you to tackle this. I haven’t took the time to actually itemize it down for us, but we get $24.86 a day in TN and we have monthly budgets and so far it seemed like we weren’t really able to put more in savings with that payment. Takes more gas (as I take to all appts & we only get compensated for over 50 miles one way.) our electric and grocery was more, (but thankfully I can/freeze alot, which helps)+ the WIC, also eating out and traveling is more, we had both of ours over 6 months so we had to get the second set of clothing. But I imagine the costs will probably lessen for us in the second yeat, as we also had to buy a new bigger car, 3 additional beds and beings they were the first kids it was also the additional expense of ‘starting a family items’….. But yes, wen it’s leftover we figure it as income also.

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