That question is the single most common query that brings new people to this site. So, if that is why you got here, I'm going to try to answer that question, but I do hope you stick around to check out the rest of the blog.
The phrase you wanted was "foster care reimbursement rates." My assumption is that you, dear searcher, are trying to figure out whether you can afford to do care. There are people who think that foster parents do it for the money, but that really is a myth. The money that is paid to foster parents is for reimbursement for expenses. There is no profit in it.
I recommend this article from the National Foster Parent Association. [update: this article has been removed. You still might want to visit the NFPA though.] They have a good chart for the base rates. It is a little misleading though because there are usually higher rates for children who are more difficult to care for in one way or another. In extreme cases, the money is high enough to compensate for the inability to work outside the home while caring for children. You will probably find that it is difficult to learn in advance what the higher levels of reimbursement are.
An excellent study on foster care reimbursement rates around the country is here: http://www.childrensrights.org/policy-projects/foster-care/hitting-the-marc-foster-care-reimbursement-rates/ [link updated 8/29/08]
One thing that it is important to know is that you will typically not get any reimbursement until after a child has been with you for four to six weeks. There is also generally no reimbursement for "start up" costs, which can be considerable. Depending upon what age child you are planning on taking, you may have to purchase cribs, high chairs, beds, car seats, and more. Do not expect to have any of those expenses reimbursed.
Most states have a voucher system for clothing. Where I live that means that every month you get a voucher for $50 which can be used only at the large discount stores (W*lmart, etc.). You can maintain a child's wardrobe with that amount of money, but many kids will come to you with inadquate clothing; some come with nothing but what they are wearing. There is a good chance that you will find yourself having to spend hundreds of dollars up front to get children the very basics and that will not be reimbursed.
I work for a private agency that is considerably more generous. They will reimburse when you mail in receipts which allows me to take advantage of sales anywhere. Their yearly clothing allowance is $600, but I have had social workers approve exceptions when necessary. That is not a typical situation.
Reimbursment is a awkward topic, and I have written about it before, but it was part of "Ann's Story" which is now on the private blog. Here is the relevant portion of that post:
My husband and I are teachers. Our students are about as far apart as it possible to get, but we are both teachers. We love what we do. We put time and energy into it. We also "do it for the money." If I could not get paid to do it, I would have to do something else.
I hate it when I hear people talk about foster parents "doing it for the money." Most foster parents get less in reimbursement than it costs to take care of the kids. Most get less than the average child support payment. So first it bothers me because it is false. It bothers me secondly because I think it ought to be possible for people to be professional foster parents and be respected for doing it. Doctors, teachers, and hair dressers all get paid to do what they do. Getting paid does not meanthat they do not care or that they treat those they care for poorly.
In my area there is a local private program with which the state contracts. They do have a group home, but they also have foster homes. All their homes have one room with a keyed lock in which every sharp object and household chemical is kept. They require that at least one adult be home full-time. I don't know what the reimbursements are, but I know that they are higher to compensate for that requirement. The women I know that work with this agency have had previous careers in retail and filing. They report that the reimbursement levels did allow them to leave those jobs. They are pleased to be able to help support their family by doing something which they know few other people can do as well.
On 8/28/08 I received this:
I happened to come across your blog post about foster care reimbursement rates and wanted to drop a quick line of thanks for referencing our "Hitting the MARC" report on the topic -- and also to let you know that the link has changed. We just launched a whole new website, which we hope will be an even better resource for people interested in foster care and child welfare issues, and though your link will get people to the site, it won't get them to the correct page. The new link is http://www.childrensrights.org/policy-projects/foster-care/hitting-the-marc-foster-care-reimbursement-rates/.
As part of the new site, we've also just launched a blog of our own, and while there's not much there yet, there will be soon enough.
All the best,
Director of Communications