How Much Does It Cost to Care for a Foster Child?

by Laura Christianson

On any given day, there are more than half a million children in foster care in the U.S.

Three-fourths of them are placed by the government with foster parents who open their homes to care for these vulnerable children and almost one-fifth are placed in group homes and institutions.

Federal law requires state and local child welfare systems to pay foster parents to “cover” the expenses (food, clothing, and school supplies) for these children.

But how much does it really cost to care for a child in foster care? Until now, there has been no standardized calculation.

A new report calculates–state-by-state–the real cost of supporting children in foster care. The report establishes Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children (the “Foster Care MARC”) based on an analysis of the real costs of providing care.

You can download the 58-page report yourself if you’re interested in learning how they calculated these costs. The report clearly demonstrates that rates of support for children in foster care are far below what is needed to provide basic care for these children in nearly every state in the nation.

On average, across the U.S., current foster care rates must be raised by 36 percent in order to reach the Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children (the “Foster Care MARC”). In some states, rates are less than half of what it actually costs to care for a child in foster care.

Tables in the report show the current foster care rates for each state (for children ages 2, 9, and 16) and compare that with the MARC, or rate at which each state should be funding foster care. The tables also U.S. averages and the percentage must be increased by to hit the MARC.

Here are a few of the results:

Only one state (Arizona) and the District of Columbia are currently hitting the MARC.

States that must raise their rates by up to 25% for at least one age group include (in alphabetical order):

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

States that are completely missing the MARC–in other words–their rates must be more than doubled for at least one age group of children–include (in alphabetical order):

  • Idaho
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Wisconsin

For complete details, download the  report:

"Hitting the M.A.R.C.: Establishing Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children."

The report was prepared by Children’s Rights , the National Foster
Parent Association and the University
of Maryland School of Social Work

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