foster parent researching how much foster parents get paid

A Guide to Foster Parent Compensation (Part 1)

There is one thing everyone wants to know but everyone is afraid to ask: How and how much are foster parents paid? What are the financial implications of being a foster parent? It is a taboo to speak of “paying” parents. But being a foster parent is an especially important role and often challenging task. 

Just like teachers and nurses get paid to take care of children at school or at a clinic, so should foster parents be compensated. Read on to the end; this article removes the mystery surrounding how much and how foster parents are compensated and provides clarity for prospective or even currently approved foster parents. 

Everyone is Worthy of their Compensation

I was 14 years old. My parents could not really afford to give me allowance or any type of pocket money, so I decided I was going to sign up as an apprentice in construction during a summer break. The work was hard. I remember digging trenches for the foundation of the building. My youthful hands were blistered after only a couple hours.

It was rebar day. Pulling rebar into place then making the appropriate ties. I had gloves on but every once in while I would take them off, only to be reminded when I scraped my knuckles that I needed to wear the gloves. That evening, I dropped like a bag of bricks and went to bed.

The anticipation of getting paid at the end of the week woke me up the next morning.  Not too bright and not too early, but I was awake. After eating a “man’s breakfast”, I headed out the door to join the construction crew. Again, another day in construction. I was carrying sand and gravel, mixing concrete with a shovel in a huge pile on the ground (no cement mixers available). 

I remember carrying cinder blocks so that they could be laid neatly by the professionals. I longed for the day that they would trust me to lay a line of blocks. Day two was finally over. I was exhausted but I went to bed that night dreaming of the money I would be earning at the end of the week.

The days went by quickly. It did not get any easier waking up every day, but I was determined to prove that at fourteen, I was already a man. I accepted the verbal chastisement of the construction workers whenever I messed up, thinking to myself, no worries, it is all worth it, I will get paid soon.

Then the last day of the week. Somehow, I found that I had an extra bounce in my step. I was working harder and faster. I heard the men talking about what they were going to do with their money, and I was so excited for my own plans, but I contained myself from sharing what I would do with my money.

The day was over. It was 4:45pm, and everyone lined up to get paid. I stood in line for what seemed an eternity. It was now my turn. If you could see me, you could see that I was levitating a few inches off the ground, just beaming with pride that I would soon have money in my pockets. 

I finally reached the foreman and entered the pop-up canopy. His eyes were not beaming with pride. Instead, his eyes immediately told me that something was wrong. His words pierced the air and landed like a punch to my stomach: “Assistants don’t get paid for their first week. You are not getting paid today. Come back next week and we will see if we pay you then.”

Commitment to Fairness

I was disappointed. I am sure I cried. But that day changed me. That day I resolved to always be fair with anyone with whom I had any financial dealings. Whether a colleague or employee, I committed in my heart to be fair. 

This commitment to fairness has carried over to my involvement in Foster Care, with a firm promise to honesty and transparency. It is interesting that the one thing everyone wants to know but everyone is afraid to ask, is about the financial implications of being a foster parent. So, let us discuss a few issues. 

Explaining Foster Parent Compensation

In California, foster parents receive a monthly payment to feed, clothe, and meet the material needs of the children placed in their care. Medical and dental coverage is provided through the Medi-Cal program. For working parents, appropriate childcare arrangements must be made by the foster parents.  So, each month, foster parents receive payment to reimburse for expenses such as transportation, clothing, food, extracurricular activities, school expenses, toiletries, etc. 

Payments and Taxes

Although we say “payment”, in technical terms, it is considered a reimbursement for expenses. That is why the “payment” is non-taxable, meaning that the funds you receive each month are not reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Uncle Sam. As in all cases, please consult your tax specialist.

Payments and Loans, Subsidies, or Scholarship

Another question commonly asked is, “do I have to report the income to other private or government assistance programs?” “Do I have to report foster care payments as part of my income declaration when applying for a housing subsidy, child’s financial aid, or when applying for a loan?

Please note that each program will have its own requirements and you should become familiar with the eligibility regulations. However, Knotts Family Agency, does not report your income to any third party. We will never disclose how much you have been paid. 

If you like, you may request in writing that we provide a letter in which we give a historical trend of payment or average payment during a specific time period. In all cases, please conduct your personal research and obtain information about the requirements of programs, scholarships, or loans to make an informed decision.

When are Foster Parents Paid?

Although most people say “monthly”, the compensation is based on the number of nights the child stayed in your home during the month. Think of it like a hotel. You checked in Friday at 3pm and checked out on Sunday at 12pm. Although technically you used three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) at the hotel, your hotel bill will only be for the two nights: Friday night and Saturday night. 

That is how it is with foster care also. If a child is placed in your home at 8am on Monday and leaves at 8pm Wednesday, how many nights are you compensated? Yes, you guessed it:  2 nights. Only the night the child slept in your home. The compensation is only for Monday night and Tuesday night even though it could be argued that the child was in your home for three days. All of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

What are the Payment Dates?

Most agencies will have a designated day of the month in which you receive your payment. This would cover the days you have cared for a child in a specific 30-day window.

 If you are considering being a foster parent, feel free to ask how and when the agency will pay you. At Knotts Family Agency, parents receive their payment between the 20-25th of each month. We are always on time and in the very unlikely case that there is a discrepancy, we will address the issue immediately.

Our Promise at Knotts Family Agency 

At Knotts Family Agency, we passionately believe that parents are our partners and that is why we treat parents with the highest respect and honor. That also means being transparent about compensation. 

That is why, foster parents do not have to wait until they receive their payment to know how much they are getting paid. Instead, parents have access to a secured website where they can see all the relevant information for the child(ren) in their home, including length of stay and payment amount. 

Not only are we transparent in financial dealings, but we are also intentional in giving the best quality support to parents. You can rest assured that we will never owe you. We will never hold back funds that are for foster parents. 

Unlike my personal experience learning the construction trade, Knotts Family Agency will never short-change any foster parent. Our finance department operates with the highest integrity. 

The annual independent financial audit is designed to ensure that there is complete reconciliation between every check received from the counties and every single payment made to foster parents. As in all things in accounting, even if there is a penny “left over”, the agency must send that penny to the foster parent.

When considering becoming a foster parent, find an agency that is committed to treating foster parents with fairness and transparency. At Knotts Family Agency, one of our values is that “we demonstrate integrity in all our actions”. This includes financial transactions. 

This article introduced the topic of foster parent compensation. The premise is that being a foster parent is challenging and those who open their heart and home deserve to be compensated. In a companion article, I will discuss how much you are paid. See article here.



  • What are your questions about foster parent compensation? 
  • What are your thoughts about how much foster parents should be compensated? Should it be more, or should it be less, why?
  • Feel free to think about these questions. You can share your thoughts here or contact us directly to discuss any questions you have.


Feel free to think about these questions. You can share your thoughts here or contact us directly to discuss any questions you have. 

We'll Help You Become A Foster or Adoptive Parent in California

Share This Article And Spread The Love


This Post Has 2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Become a Foster or Adoptive Parent Today

We'll help you through the process step-by-step