As a first-time foster caregiver, you are embarking on a fulfilling and life-changing experience! But even with all the joy, you probably have some questions and fears about what’s on the horizon. While caring for the wellbeing of the children in your home takes center stage, it’s equally important to establish a solid financial foundation. Explore helpful strategies and recommendations for financial planning for those beginning their foster care journey.
Financial Resources and Support Available for Foster Caregivers
The financial aspect of becoming a foster parent can seem daunting, especially when there are so many unknowns. Yes, it’s true that in the first few weeks, caregivers are expected to financially provide for the children’s needs from their personal money. However, caregivers are reimbursed for expenses related to the children in their care. Reimbursements are sent twice a month.
Becca Crook, Supervisor for the Child Placing Department with KVC Nebraska, details the reimbursements. “There is a base rate per child that varies depending on their age and needs. Then another rate that is determined from an assessment that determines if the foster caregiver is able to meet the youth’s needs,” Crook explains.
In addition to these monthly reimbursements, community resources are available too. KVC works actively to match the needs of children and families to the most appropriate resources. As a community resource itself, KVC receives donations for foster families to utilize. These may include school supplies, shoes or clothing and even personal hygiene items. There’s even Swap and Shops, where caregivers can do a little shopping day for clothing for children in their care.
Financial Advice to Prepare for an Incoming Foster Child
Potential foster caregivers might worry that they don’t have the finances or resources to become foster caregivers. It’s important to know that finances shouldn’t be a barrier to becoming a foster parent. Many financial planning strategies and resources are available to offset any financial risks involved with caregiving — and we’re here to help.
“Some individuals might feel that they are taking on more than they’re comfortable with financially, and it’s important for these potential caregivers to discuss and assess the resources and support that is provided by KVC or other resources and create confidence that they can be successful taking in children,” Crook explains. “We don’t want finances to be a burden for caregivers.”
To minimize the financial stresses of becoming a foster parent, use the following advice to explore or prepare for your foster care journey.
- Understand Your Expenses: Caregivers should meet their own expenses with their own income, but also consider how those expenses may change when children enter their home. When budgeting, think about costs such as food, clothing, healthcare, education and extracurricular activities.
- Create a Comprehensive Budget: Whether your family is small or large, a budget is essential for managing your finances effectively. Consider all your income sources and allocate funds for different categories, including housing, utilities, transportation, groceries, childcare and entertainment. Be sure to account for any additional costs associated with fostering, and track your expenses to stay on top of your budget.
- Maximize Available Financial Support: Educate yourself on the eligibility criteria and application process for these programs. Crook outlined the reimbursement support above. You can also explore tax credits and deductions that may be applicable in certain situations.
- Build an Emergency Fund: Setting aside some extra money for any unforeseen expenses is wise. If possible, aim to save three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a separate savings account. Then this fund can serve as a safety net during challenging times and help you avoid financial stress.
- Get Professional Advice: Consider consulting with a financial advisor who specializes in working with foster families. They can assist you in creating a customized financial plan, help you navigate complex financial situations and provide guidance on budgeting, saving and investing. Their expertise can be invaluable in ensuring your financial stability.
- Utilize Community Resources: Take advantage of local resources available to foster parents. Although KVC has its own helpful resources for foster families, there are other non-profit organizations, support groups and government agencies that offer assistance with childcare, clothing, school supplies and extracurricular activities. These resources can alleviate financial burdens and help provide enriching experiences for the children in your care.
- Prioritize Self-Care and Financial Wellness: While focusing on the financial needs of the children, don’t forget to prioritize your financial wellbeing. Taking care of your own financial future will ensure you can continue providing a stable environment for the children in your care.
Support Beyond the Financial
Although financial support is essential, other forms of support are just as vital. When looking beyond the financial aspect of caregiving, it’s important to establish a solid foundation with any family currently living in the home to ensure that each member is ready to provide care to another person.
“This could look like having multiple conversations about the changes that will occur and checking in to make sure everyone is on board and ready to support one another,” Crook recommends.
Here at KVC, we want to see foster parents succeed! We’re here to help, getting creative in finding different ways to support families with involvement in extracurricular activities, opportunities in the community or other aspects of the foster care experience. You can feel confident becoming a foster caregiver by gaining as much knowledge as possible to ensure you’re prepared mentally, emotionally and financially.
On any given day, more than 5,000 children and teens are in the foster care system in Nebraska. Curious if foster caregiving is right for you? KVC Nebraska offers Foster Parent Information Nights, a great place to find information and ask questions. Curious individuals should plan to attend and explore the opportunity. If the foster care journey feels like the right fit, our 10-week foster caregiving class is an ideal next step. You are not alone on this journey, and with careful planning, you can confidently navigate the financial aspects of fostering. Get in touch with KVC Nebraska today to learn more about foster caregiving.