Wisconsin foster parents receive a monthly payment, also called a stipend, to care for the basic needs of a foster child. How much is it? Is it enough? Foster care payments are a delicate topic and often misunderstood. Nobody wants to be perceived as wanting to become a foster parent for the money. In our experience speaking with prospective foster parents, most folks never ask about the money.
CCR foster parents care for kids of all ages with various traumatic histories. Many kids are reunited with their families, others age out of foster care, and many are adopted by foster parents. Providing care for kids comes with many expenses and responsibilities and can feel like a "job." Fostering is a 24/7 commitment that requires much more than one might anticipate. Children need structure, supervision, mentoring, coaching, driving to appointments, and discipline while living in a loving, caring, stable home environment. While all those responsibilities may sound like a "job,"; it isn't a paid position.
Being a foster parent is one of the most challenging yet rewarding roles to assume without monetary reward. There is no get-rich-quick scheme while fostering children. There is no paycheck to sustain a particular lifestyle, pay the mortgage, or make car payments. There is a reimbursement for the expenses of caring for a child, but it isn't enough for anyone to "do it for the money." Money should never be a reason to become a foster parent.
The answer depends on who you ask. Some people believe foster parents should be salaried employees of Wisconsin. Others believe the stipend system works best. Conversations about foster care & money can go in two different directions. Many folks don't know that reimbursement is provided; others think that many people still foster for the check. We rarely speak with a prospective foster parent looking for payment. Most often, those who inquire are pleasantly surprised to learn of the reimbursement.
Many foster parents who care for treatment-level foster kids view themselves as professional caregivers. Some believe that more people would become foster parents if they were fairly compensated for what is always a 24/7 job. Conversely, others are happy monthly expenses incurred for caring for a child are covered at all. Payment options have been debated and argued for years by foster parents, social workers, and policymakers in Wisconsin and at the federal level. Let us explain the basics of foster parent compensation.
There are three rates involved in determining what Wisconsin foster parents receive for caring for a child. Let's explore all three to understand better how each is calculated.
The Basic Maintenance Rate is intended to cover a child's basic needs. It is a non-taxable reimbursement given to foster parents to pay for caring for a foster child. It is not considered income. Costs associated with caring for a foster child, such as food, clothing, basic transportation, and personal care, are reimbursed by the state to a foster parent. The State Legislature sets the Wisconsin Uniform Foster Care Rate. The rate corresponds with a child's age.
All children placed with CCR, no matter their level of care, are evaluated within the first 30 days after placement to determine the amount of the supplemental rate.
The Supplemental Rate is an additional payment for foster children who have additional needs such as emotional, behavioral, or medical needs. An assessment tool known as CANS, Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths, is a multi-purpose tool used by the referring county and the placing agency. The tool assesses a child's needs and strengths in trauma, school, mental health, relationships, and risk behaviors. Children are scored on their level of need.
Measures are in place to ensure an opportunity for both the foster parent and caseworker to participate in the scoring. Our goal is to score fairly and accurately with full transparency utilizing a team approach with the referring county. A CANS assessment is performed every six months or as determined to be necessary by the case manager/placing agency.
Care considered above and beyond what is typically needed falls into the third category.
The Exceptional Rate supports the care of a foster child who is at risk of placement in higher-level out-of-home care such as a group home or residential treatment facility. Perhaps a child requires hands-on care, medical care, or daily self-care. Also, developmental delays and severe behavior problems are considered for an exceptional rate.
Often, a child who requires an extraordinary amount of supervision or has heightened mental health will qualify for an exceptional rate. In addition to the care mentioned above, Wisconsin has a policy that awards foster families for keeping sibling groups together. A large percentage of Community Care Resources foster families care for sibling groups. The majority of CCR families care for more than one child at a time.
Wisconsin requires all foster parents to complete a financial statement during the application process. Applicants must demonstrate financial stability. Your monthly income or portfolio must be enough to consistently pay all your household bills and cover all expenses for family members living in your home. It does not matter how much or how little.
The actual stipend amount is different for every child. CCR foster parents can expect the Basic Rate plus additional monies from Supplemental and Exceptional rates to offset the costs of providing care to kids. Many foster parents say the stipend covers all expenses with money remaining each month. Others express that it could never be enough based on the care required.
As of January 2022, basic rates for caring for non-relatives are as follows:
All CCR foster parents are given an estimated stipend amount before placement. There is a maximum amount and no monthly payment for the combined Basic Maintenance, Supplemental, and Exceptional Rates may exceed $2,000 in Wisconsin.
Ready to begin the process of becoming a foster parent? We would love to speak with you and give you all the details and answers you're looking for.