This article is an honest look at the financial side of foster care in Ontario, Canada.
One of the worst and more hurtful statements we hear as foster parents, is that foster parents do what they do for money. Ugh. I can hear the collective assembly of foster parents groaning now.
This could end up being a very boring post but it’s meant to give insight to all those who feel justified when they say foster parents make money doing this job.
To break it down foster parents receive:
$200 for an initial placement ($200 to outfit a baby, child or teen who comes to live with you and brings nothing with them) . You can do that math on your own but that got our last little one a few pairs of shorts, a few t-shirts, 5 undies, 6 socks, two pairs of jeans and a jacket and one pair of shoes. It didn’t pay for the three other pants, four long sleeve shirts, rubber boots, hat, bathing suit, sandals, 5 more undies, two sweatshirts and three pj sets we bought him.
$917.84 per month per child. That is $32.78 per day. That is just over $1.00 per hour. Now who goes out and seeks a job that pays $1. per hour? My article could stop right there. Not anyone who has ever worked with foster children would question again why we do what we do. If I wanted money, I would go to my local Tim Horton’s coffee shop and work for $14. an hour and make more in three hours than I would in 24 of fostering and I can tell you which job is harder, more taxing physically and emotionally and demanding of our whole family. This monthly amount is supposed to cover food, shelter, electricity, water, and any other costs towards raising a child. It is also supposed to cover diapers and formula. So one box of diapers is $40. That lasts about a week to two depending on the baby so that’s $80 a month. Formula is $25 – 40 per can of powder depending on what brand and we go through 1 can or more per week so that’s another $100 -200. per month. So if you take remove the diapers and formula from the $917.84 that leaves $637. If you break that down per month it leaves $20.57 per day so that’s 85 cents per hour. Now would you take a job as difficult as caring for vulnerable, traumatized children in your home for 85 cents per hour?
There are a few extras on our per diem.
We get 30 cents per day for spending allowance (0-3yr). That’s a whopping $8.40 per month. What can you buy a baby for less than $10? Even a rattle at Toys R Us is $10. For older kids it is slightly more and equals about $10. per month. That is what we are supposed to give foster children as an allowance. We don’t do allowance because the kids would never be able to buy what they need and want so we just keep the nickels and buy them the $25. book they want or the $30 Barbie set.
We get $1.58 per day for transportation. That adds up to $44. per month. But when it costs $100 to fill up my van (which I do at least once per week) with gas at the crazy high gas prices in Canada it doesn’t nearly cover the three times a week I have to drive a baby to a visit at the agency and then return a few hours later to pick her up. Three times a week visits is a minimum required by our courts in most cases but often can be as many as 5 – 7 visits per week. This is not to mention other drives such as doctors appointments, specialists, programs, lessons, etc.`All of which we do not get any more gas mileage for. So you can see that we spend much more than $44 a month on gas alone. The only concession I will make is if you have three siblings and they all go to the same visits then you are doing better because you get $44 per month per child so $132. which is much closer to being helpful.
We receive $2.05 per day for clothing allowance so that’s $57.40 per month. I find the clothing amount to be close to okay for middle age kids but infants who go through a new wardrobe every other month because of growth this doesn’t come close to enough. Not even if we were to shop at thrift stores would this come close. The other major issue is teens. Anyone with teens knows how much a pair of jeans cost. There’s your $50. That leaves nothing for the DC Shoes, the jacket, the shirts, the $20 for three pairs of boxers, the pj’s the socks, the bras, bathing suits, the bedding, the snow clothing, boots, sandals, the sweatshirts. We seriously do our best to make our teens fit in with their peers (something they maybe have never done before) but it costs us more than we receive. We pay for things for them from our own pockets and our hearts.
Hygiene. Now you’ll like this one. We get $0. for infants 0-3. That’s right apparently babies don’t need hygiene; no wipes, no soap, no shampoo, no powders, no diaper creams, no sunscreen. Older kids 13+ get I believe $8. a month. So that’s one stick of deodorant and a cheap razor. That doesn’t cover toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, soap, feminine hygiene products, hair brush, lice removal kits, scents, or makeup.
We receive $49.84 for relief. So that’s one or two times per month when we can pay a babysitter. Many meetings we aren’t allowed to bring all the kids to so that’s eaten up really quick and that leaves nothing for a date night. We end up sharing babysitting among our foster friends. So other foster parents will take mine while I’m at a meeting and I’ll take their for a meeting. We have to be resourceful in order to make all the meetings and kid-free appointments.
The only funding we get that is not a reimbursement is our skill and training dollars. So we get paid the highest amount as we have been fostering for over 18 years. That equals $1.50 a day. That’s $42.00 we get per month just for hanging in there! Helps to offset the hundreds of extra dollars we take out of our family’s budget that goes to helping the kids. We also get $1.25 per day for training hours. That’s an extra $35. per month but if we don’t get in enough training that can be bumped down to nothing. It ensures that foster parents continue to stay up to date on new information on raising kids. It’s also supposed to help pay for babysitting so we can go to training. The current rate for babysitting is $10 an hour but that’s for a normal family with 2.5 children. What do you think is fair rate for a family with 3 extra kids in it all who have a hard time going to bed and some have minor to massive temper tantrums and all have trauma and fear the dark? $10 doesn’t cut it. So we aren’t really getting a bonus for going to training after all. We just get to go out to training once a month and pay someone to watch the kids.
So in the end our per diem stub says we make $1,149.96 per month to take in someone elses child. Some people say that’s more than enough and foster parents who have four placements are getting rich off the system. Except now you know how much we actually get to keep of that. And now you know that we end up spending more than we get. Now you know that there’s no financial gain in fostering. When you consider the immense pain, and trauma we deal with 24 hours a day, you see it is a labour of love.
Two last things to mention is that this is the cost breakdown for a regular placement. There is a higher rate for specialized and treatment children. But the increase is usually because you are dealing with very high needs children in wheelchairs or many medical treatments a day. Then we get about $3. per hour for being a 24 hour a day nurse or PSW.
The other thing to mention is that these rates have not increased in at least 15 years! The transportation rate hasn’t gone up in any of the years I can remember and the price of gas has doubled if not tripled in as many years.
I am not complaining. I am thankful that I have a husband who works hard for our family and we are able to take extra children and help them succeed for as long as they are with us. We make sure they wear Nike shoes just like our own kids. We buy them what they need just like our own kids. We pay for them to come on vacations just like our own kids. We love them just like our own kids. If I were a single parent, I would have to foster much differently and I would be making much more frugal attempts at using just what they give us. My thinking is that raising a child on just what they give us doesn’t equate to much more than living in poverty. That is sad because we should be able to do much better for kids in foster care. It would be an interesting for a money minded person to take these numbers and use them to figure out if children in care are living above or below the poverty line. If we didn’t use our own resources for them that is.
Other things we don’t get reimbursed for are car seats (we’ve bought over 30 in our years and currently own 7!), beds, cribs, damage to our homes and furniture, repainting, wear and tear on our vehicles. There’s probably more that I can’t think of.
So next time a foster parent asks for donations of clothing for a new placement, please remember this article and help them clothe a child who has come with nothing.