Foster Culture

October 16, 2007

Overburdening Foster Parents

This is a recent article that caught my attention. Look closely at the money a foster parent receives. In addition to that, a youth, in Missouri, receives $250.00 per year for clothing. That is their coats, socks, underwear, pants, shorts, shoes, shirts, sweaters, jackets, rain slickers…everything. This is all they have to work with. Foster teens work especially hard fighting the stigma of being a “foster kid” to begin with, now try to imagine the burden of trying to not look like one. 


Overburdening foster parents

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
October 7, 2007

Estimated printed pages: 3

It’s reasonable to expect that foster parents will provide generous amounts of love, patience and understanding to the children they bring into their homes and care for. It is not reasonable for states to make the parents’ financial burdens greater than they need to be.

But in Missouri, Illinois and most other states, the reimbursements provided to foster parents fall far short of the actual costs of providing for the children placed in their homes. The difference is made up by the foster parents.

The shortfalls also have the effect of excluding those families who simply could not bear the extra financial burden, further limiting the already too small pool of potential foster parents.

Reimbursement rates for foster parents are set by individual states, in most cases without regard for the actual cost of raising a foster child. That’s contrary to federal law, which requires that foster children’s expenses be covered.

Last week, a landmark study was released by two advocacy groups – Children’s Rights and the National Foster Parent Association – in association with the University of Maryland School of Social Work. For the first time, it makes available foster care reimbursement rates in 50 states and the District of Columbia and compares them with specific calculations of the cost of caring for foster children at three different ages.

Only two of the 51 entities – the District of Columbia and Arizona – were reimbursing foster parents more – slightly – than the actual costs of caring for the children they took in. Another 10 states fell somewhat short of reimbursing actual costs.

The remaining 39 states fell far below actual costs. Missouri’s rate – long among the nation’s lowest – ranked 48th out of 51. Illinois ranked 39th. To meet those costs, rates in Missouri would have to more than double; in Illinois, they would have to increase by more than 75 percent.

The reason for these dramatic disparities isn’t particularly mysterious. Most states, the researchers found, do not even bother to try to calculate the actual costs of caring for foster children. According to state foster care agencies, the rates in most cases simply reflect the whims of state lawmakers.

Reimbursement rates for group homes in Missouri used to be set that way. But a federal lawsuit brought by group home owners in 2003 led a judge to order changes. Now those rates reflect actual costs. The rates for individual foster parents, however, still do not.

Legislators in Missouri and Illinois marginally increased payments this year to foster parents, but they need to increase further. In Missouri, the federal judge’s ruling in the group-homes lawsuit suggests that the state’s position with respect to foster parents could be equally untenable.

Advocates for foster children also should take their case to the U.S. Congress. Federal law already says all costs of raising foster children must be covered, but it doesn’t spell out what those costs are. An amendment should set minimum federal reimbursement levels and tie them to actual costs.

Without a specific standard, financially pressed state governments have too much wiggle room to low-ball reimbursements, which shortchanges children and the foster parents who give so freely to them.


Monthly foster care reimbursement rates, compared with actual monthly costs of caring for children at three different ages:

AGE 2 Reimbursement rate Actual cost

Missouri $271 $627

Illinois $380 $661


Average $488 $629

AGE 9 Reimbursement rate Actual cost

Missouri $322 $719

Illinois $422 $757


Average $509 $721

AGE 16 Reimbursement rate Actual cost

Missouri $358 $788

Illinois $458 $830


Average $568 $790

SOURCE: “Hitting the M.A.R.C.: Establishing Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children,” October 2007; Children’s Rights, National Foster Parent Association, University of Maryland School of Social Work.Memo:  OUR VIEW CHILDREN

Edition:  Fourth Edition
Section:  Editorial
Page:  B2


Copyright (c) 2007 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Record Number:  1001116837



  1. The low rate of reimbursement is only more evidence of how the American people value our children. No money in foster care. No money in education. More money in prisons. More money in war. It is shameful. Foster Care agencies SAY that they want to recruit qualified, loving people to provide care for the children; yet the paperwork, waiting periods, endless telephone calls, and sometimes court, can be a bit owverwhelming and taxing – especially when most often people have to take off work to be available for meetings, interviews, etc.

    The Foster Care system is unreal! The expectations are way out of sync. The average person does not want to foster because they want to get rich (not that there is a fat chance of that anyway). However, no one want sto go broke trying help either.

    Comment by C. Stewart — December 11, 2008 @ 4:09 am | Reply

  2. .*- I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives great information -‘*

    Comment by Lillian King — January 24, 2011 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

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