“Clear accounts make for long friendships”.
That is the premise of this article. When dealing with financial issues, the best approach is to have “clear accounting”.
A previous article in this two-part series dealt with the importance of integrity and fairness about foster parent payment. We also previously discussed foster parent compensation and taxes, when (date) you are paid, and that payment is per night the child is in your home. To read the first article click here.
How much are foster parents paid? Who determines how much they get paid? How is payment calculated? This article will address key questions related to the financial compensation of foster parents.
Determining how much
In the previous article, I reviewed the “what” and “how” you are paid. I explained that 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.
aWe also discussed that the payment is tax free and that you will have to decide, based on the program’s requirements, whether to report the income as part of your application for loans, scholarships, or government subsidies.
But what about how much foster parents are paid?
Previous system: Age-Based Payment
First, a little history. Years ago, foster parent payment was based on the child’s age. There were several age groups. For example, a foster parent who cared for an infant would receive less than a foster parent who cared for a 16-year old.
You could argue that the old system had a flaw. Does a pediatrician doctor or nurse charge less when the patient is a 5-year-old versus a 16-year-old? What about an infant with significant health needs versus a teen with no behavioral or health concerns? Which parent should get more?
Then, a few years ago, the State of California changed “foster case as we knew it”. The Resource Family Approval (RFA) is a new family-friendly and child-centered caregiver approval process that combines elements of the foster parent licensing, relative approval, and approvals for adoption and guardianship.
That is why foster parents are now known as Resource Parents or Resource Families. But it was not only a change in name, it also changed how foster parents were compensated. It would no longer be based on age, instead it is now based on needs of the child. This is known as Level of Care (LOC).
This new scoring (in contrast with the age-based approach) considers several factors. An evaluation tool is used to try to determine the level of care the child should be in. The LOC scoring matrix considers both: a) characteristics of the child, and b) services provided by the foster parent.
|Level of Care||Resource Family Payment|
|Level 1 (Basic)||$1000.00|
|Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC)||$2609.00|
Accurate as of 05/01/2020
As the table shows, note that there are several Levels of Care. However, to qualify to receive the highest rate of ISFC, the foster parents must have additional training and must be providing specific services.
A Note about Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC)
Also, not all agencies are approved for ISFC so ask around. Knotts Family Agency is approved for ISFC and will work with you so that you are eligible for the highest rate. Also, keep in mind that the official rates set by the California Department of Social Services, are minimum rates. For example, at Knotts Family Agency, for certain sub-categories of ISFC children, we “pay” parents $3000 per month even though the state prescribed $2,609 per month.
Transparency in Accounting
At Knotts Family Agency we believe in full transparency. Not only will we inform you of the Level of Care, but we will also always advocate strongly on your behalf so that the child in your care can be placed in the correct level. It is not fair to you to care for a child who is at Level 4, but you are being compensated at Level 1 rate.
Be aware that most children are placed at the basic rate initially, especially if not much is known about their history, behaviors, or needs. That means that in the first few weeks, foster parents and their agency social worker may identify behaviors or needs that were not previously known or disclosed. At that point, a request for a LOC assessment can be completed to determine whether a new rate is appropriate.
Processing Level of Care Adjustments
Routinely, a county worker may verbally inform the foster parent that the foster parents will be receiving a change in level of care rate. Naturally, the foster parent believes that means that a check will be arriving the next day. Unfortunately, the agency must wait until the Notice of Action is received to even know what the new rate is or how much the foster parent will be receiving.
At Knotts Family Agency, as soon as we receive the Notice of Action- NOA (the official letter confirming that there has been a change in level), we immediately pay the funds to the foster parent. This is done even though the letter usually comes in advance of actual funds.
So even if the agency has not yet received the funds, we will act based on the NOA. Because the adjustment may be retroactive, it is not uncommon to see foster parents receiving checks with significantly larger sums of money.
Final Thoughts about Foster Parents and Compensation
This article covers how much parents are paid and how the payment is determined. Although we believe that foster parents should be compensated for all their hard work, it is always important to focus on the primary mission of keeping children safe and providing a caring and nurturing environment.
Just like with any profession, it is possible to find individuals who want to become foster parents only to make additional money. You find this in all sectors. People who may not have the passion, the calling, or the commitment to their role, and instead, are driven by a “salary”.
In Knotts Family Agency, we are very intentional and selective in who is approved as a foster parent. We recognize that money is a legitimate reason, but no matter the stage in life or what the original motivator is, all foster parents are held to the same high standards.
Furthermore, we provide the training, guidance, and support, so that you are successful as a foster parent. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure a child has a safe and nurturing home.
- What are your thoughts about the change in how parents are paid from age -based to level of care?
- What do you believe about foster parents getting paid at all? Should this be volunteer work? Justify your response.
- What is motivating your interest to become a foster parent?
Feel free to think about these questions. You can share your thoughts here or contact us directly to discuss any questions you have.