Confession: I’ve been binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. I’m home on (foster care) maternity leave, and there’s not much else to do.
During these sessions, I’ve come across three separate shows that reference foster care. Each one is negative. There’s the “you’re not our biological child, so we won’t spend money on you” storyline. And of course, the “my foster parents don’t care where I am as long as they’re getting their check” stereotype.
You know the one.
The one where someone says, “Foster parents do it for the money.”
I can’t tell you how much this bothers me.
Because, first of all… what money?
Sure, there may be people who are in this for the “money” but I promise you, it would be very, very difficult to make money off this gig. Because, foster parents don’t get paid.
Foster parents get reimbursed.
And in the state of Oklahoma, that reimbursement amount continues to decrease. In fact, just last week, the Department of Human Services attempted to remedy their $30 million plus deficit by cutting the stipend for foster parents by 5%.
Five percent may not sound like much. But, let me break this down:
In many cases, foster parents actually take money out of their own pockets to care for these kids. And when you’re a foster parent of children with special needs (bless you!), that money is even more important. A 5% cut could equate to one less treatment. One less reward. One less trip to the therapist.
Granted, there are some justifiable reasons why the amount of reimbursement is lower than the cost of raising a child.
Expenses such as health care, college savings, and insurance may not fall upon foster parents in the same way they do biological parents.
On the other hand, there are costs foster parents experience that aren’t accounted for.
After all—what’s the price tag for caring for a child who has been beaten so frequently they have no sense of purpose?
How can you accurately pay someone for holding a seizing newborn to their chest while the child withdrawals from dangerous drugs?
What do you owe someone whose parenting is questioned and ridiculed by the very people whose negligence put the child in their care?
The costs are plentiful, and they come in the form of broken hearts, sleepless nights, worry, fear, anxiety, loss, grief.
So, no. Foster parents don’t get paid.
At least, not in the traditional sense.
We get paid in other ways.
We’re paid in smiles, hugs, and thank-yous. In milestones, achievements, and pride.
We’re paid when we see hope in children’s eyes. When we watch them love and learn and grow. When they feel safe. When they begin to trust again. Folks, that’s payment.
So next time you talk to a foster parent, please don’t bring up money. We don’t do it for the money. We do it for the kids. And if you ask us about that, we’ll have plenty to say.
And if you’re considering becoming a foster parent, please understand that—while there isn’t money to be made—you may discover some payment is far more valuable than cash.