How Much Do Foster Parents Get Paid in California?

Although parenting is a full-time job, you cannot think of foster parenting as a way to cash out. If you’re in it for the money, then you’re fostering for the wrong reasons.

Still, you may be wondering – do foster parents get paid? Technically, foster families don’t actually get “paid” for taking care of a child. They receive reimbursements for the money they spend taking care of the child’s needs.

This money is not meant to be used to buy a new car or pay for your rent or some other expenses that don’t have anything to do with the immediate essential needs of the foster child. 

Bear in mind that irrespective of the subsidy or financial assistance you receive, you will still be responsible for providing the essential items needed to adequately care for the child and the financial cost of that will be borne by you.

If you’re planning on being approved as and serving as a foster parent in California, you’ll probably still want to know how much reimbursement you can expect to receive to help offset some of the costs of raising your foster child.

In this article, we answer some of the most common questions prospective foster parents have about much they can expect to get paid, how the amount is determined, and other incentives they might be given to help take some of the weight of raising a foster child off their shoulders.

  • How much do foster parents get paid monthly per child: Depending on the county where you’re licensed as a foster parent, the foster care reimbursement package ranges from $25 to $30 per day for each child. This amount increases if you’re fostering a child with additional needs.
  • When do the payments start coming in: It usually takes a few weeks for the first payment to arrive, but that depends on the day the child was placed in your home. If you are with a Foster Family Agency (FFA), the counties generally send checks to the FFA around the initial 15 days of the month, so it could be that you have to wait a few weeks. Once the first payment arrives,  you can expect to get a paycheck once every month to cover the essential needs of the child(ren) in your home. 
  • Take advantage of the cost-saving opportunities available to you: We know that bringing up a child today is an expensive affair. The state tries to soften the impact on your finances even further by giving valuable tax breaks to foster parents. There are also programs offering free stuff like clothing for foster children.

To qualify as a foster parent, you must have a stable and verifiable source of income which you can use to meet your family’s basic needs—food, shelter, and clothing. The reimbursements you get cannot be used as a primary source of income to cater to your family’s financial needs.

1. How much do foster parents get paid monthly per child?

The state of California offers a monthly stipend for foster care at an average of $1000 to $2,609 per month to help with the expenses from taking care of the child. It is one of the highest-paying states in the nation in this regard.

This figure is for each child you take into your home. The highest rates correspond to children with additional needs, because they will require more attention, time, and tending to than other children.

Know that you can’t just pocket the payments and take the child to the hospital or to visit other professionals that help with taking care of them. You need to be patient with children, shower them with more attention, listen and learn their needs, and basically find ways to care for them that wouldn’t complicate their situation even further.

Children may have been severely neglected, suffered physical/sexual/emotional abuse, and may be carrying around complex emotional issues as a result of what they’ve been through.

They may also have some condition—depression, anxiety, autism, or physical disablement—that prevents them from acting appropriately for their age or being able to respond normally to certain situations.

Whatever their challenge is, you need to be understanding. Remember that you’re dealing with a person’s life. The child entrusted to your care will come to depend on you for so much, and you cannot afford to do wrong by them.

It is also important to identify a foster family agency that is committed to providing you with the ongoing support needed. This will go a long way in ensuring that you are successful as a foster parent. 

You need to constantly examine yourself, be open to learning new skills and training that will allow you to communicate better with your foster child, and be an incredible parent to them. Raising a child is a lot to undertake, but it’s one of the most fulfilling things you can do.

Even if you decide to adopt your foster child, you’ll still be entitled to receive a small monthly payment to assist with the child’s upkeep. The amount of money you’ll receive will depend on the child’s age and personal needs.

The amount you receive in reimbursement depends on the county you reside in or the foster family. In California, the state prescribes a minimum monthly payment, but agencies may provide higher than the minimum. Talk to a foster family agency to learn more about what your foster care reimbursement payments may be.

Hopefully, this payment will help make foster care a little less stressful for you and your family.

2. When do the monthly stipends start coming in?

Every county or Foster Family Agency  has its own timeline for payments, which you’ll be informed of after your application is approved and you’re given the clearance to start fostering. 

You will need to have some funds available while you wait at least one month before the payments are sent to you. Some counties are better at expediting payment than others, so the time for the first check to arrive may vary. Make sure you have money saved up to cover the childcare costs until the subsidy payments start coming in.

In some cases, the county social worker may approve a one-time extra allowance for purchasing clothes for your foster child, but that also takes a while to arrive. So, be prepared to go shopping for clothes for your new ward out of your own pocket. But no need to go overboard with shopping. 

Like we mentioned earlier, this payment is not meant to cover all of the child’s expenses, only the basic needs. This includes:

  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Personal expenses

You won’t have to worry about medical bills because every foster child is covered under the state’s health insurance. Behavioral or mental health needs are also included under their insurance coverage.

3. Take advantage of the cost-saving opportunities available to you

The reimbursement payment you get is not the only financial aid that you can receive as a foster parent. There are a number of other options you can explore as well to help you cut costs such as a tax credit.

Although foster children do not qualify for many of the same deductions and credits as biological or adopted children, they’re still eligible for a couple of tax breaks.

For starters, foster care reimbursements in California are non-taxable, so you don’t have to worry about it being cut down any further. 

Check to see whether your county also provides childcare coverage so you can work while being a foster parent without having to carry the entire cost of childcare alone. This can help you save money that would have been spent on babysitting and other related expenses.

There are programs that provide free clothing and gifts for foster children. Signing up for them is another great way to cut down on the costs of foster parenting.

Additionally, if your foster child is an infant, toddler, or under the age of 5, they are probably eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) special supplemental nutrition program, which is aimed at providing nutritious foods to supplement diets for women and children at nutritional risk.

Don’t be ashamed about needing a little extra help to care for the foster child in your care. You’re doing the best that you can to see that they have a good life and that’s all that matters.

Foster Care Is a Rewarding Journey

When you take into account the responsibilities that come with being a foster parent, the stipend, it becomes evident that the money received should not be the primary reason for deciding to be a foster parent.

Just remember that financial gain is not an incentive to foster. You shouldn’t consider the reimbursement you receive as payment for doing your job because you’re not being paid for providing a service.

The payment is to help cover the costs of caring for the child in your home. Your true reward is in being able to help a vulnerable child feel safe, supported, and loved.


If after looking at the numbers above and understanding what exactly you’ll be signing up for and you’re still interested in becoming a foster parent in California, all you need to do is contact a reputable foster family agency and get started on your application.