Earn About $1500 a month (or more) by helping one child.
Did you know that you can earn about $1500 a month (or more) by helping one child? Tax free, no less, so it’s more like the equivalent of say $2200ish. Well, you can. We did. That’s how I was originally able to leave my corporate job and stay home with my kids back in the mid 1990’s, and those very same programs are in need of your care and nurturing today.
I’m sure you have heard of foster care. This is a little bit different. In your state it may be called Specialized foster care or Intensive foster care. It may even be called something else. Google it. See what you find. Basically it’s just like regular state care except the children or adults that you agree to care for have additional needs. Some have health needs. Others have emotional or behavioral needs. You are given all the training you need by the agency that you choose, and you decide who –which child or adult–you take in. You also have 24 hour a day support, 365 days a year. They will even provide you with respite (babysitting) options when you need a night off or have an event to attend.
It’s pretty straight forward, and it’s immensely rewarding–even without your daily stipend of $50, but that $1500+ a month certainly helps make it all possible. Check rates in your area. They vary. I was actually shocked to see that $50 a day is still the going rate for my area as that is exactly what we were allotted back in the 1990’s. That is per child, with a few exceptions. We specialized in taking in parenting teens. For those, we received $70ish…per day.
So how does it work? And what do you need to do?
It starts with a Google search. Look for all of the agencies in your area. In Southern New England, for example, we have several:
and several others. These are just some of the ones that came up when I did an internet search for Specialized Foster Care Massachusetts. There are many agencies and all of them have their own little corporate culture. Call. Talk to them. Ask questions. Ask how their programs work and what, if anything, sets their programs apart from others. Do they do things differently? Do they have any special programs? If you look into one and it doesn’t feel like a good fit, try another. There is an agency for you out there. Once you find one you like, ask to fill out an application. Some are available on line. Others will mail them to you.
Part of the application process includes a criminal background check. They are looking for major offenses and anything that might put a child in danger. If you are 35 and you stole a pack of gum when you were 18 but have had a clean record since, don’t stress about that. They won’t stress about it either. They’ll ask you what happened. Be honest. Sometimes what you think is a negative is not. Who better to teach a teen about stealing and its consequences than someone who did it and paid the price? See. You are an asset in this case. So don’t let your past haunt you. Don’t assume something will disqualify you. Often times it won’t. However, domestic violence, drug issues, etc. absolutely will.
Next would be what is called a home study. A home finder will come out to meet you and your family. They’ll look at your space and determine if it meets the guidelines set by the state. Do you have a bedroom big enough? Some placements can share a bedroom with another person. Others can’t. Your space will be noted for suitability. Are there any major safety issues involving your home? etc. (Later in the process there will be a fire inspection as well to be sure you have the appropriate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, that they are working properly, and that you have the furnace shut off switches required by law.)
Once all those initial requirements are met, the home study questionnaires begin. Each person in your home will be interviewed by the home finder. They want to be sure that everyone agrees that taking in a new person is a good idea and won’t cause family strife (beyond the normal rivalries often encountered with children.) They also need to know a little bit about your background. Okay. A lot. They will want to know everything. They will start at birth and ask you to tell them about your life. What experiences have you had? Good? Bad? Ugly? How were those experiences handled? What did you learn? etc. It feels fairly invasive at the time but it’s over quickly and they will use that info to help with placement suggestions. Maybe you have something to offer that another doesn’t because of your prior experiences. You would get priority placement, in that case, over another. So, again, don’t hold back. Everything you bring to the table has value. You are just fine as you are. Nobody wants you to hide your past.
After the home study is completed, there are some trainings you will participate in, and then a packet is submitted to the state for licensing. They don’t usually take long for approval. There are many children waiting for placements so your state won’t fool around here. They will review and process quickly.
Viola. You are now ready to begin looking at files. The clinicians who have children to place will present to you files of children that they think are a good match. The final say is yours. You look over the file. Ask questions. Talk to their counselors and social workers. If everyone thinks it looks like a match, you’ll meet the child (or adult). There will be visits. And then an over night. If those go well and you are still feeling good about the match, a transition will occur. Sometimes quick. Sometimes a little more drawn out. Whatever works for you, your family, and the child.
After they move in, you have constant support available to you. The clinician will visit weekly. You will have monthly trainings to keep you on top of the skills you need to work within different situations and populations.
Your placement may stay with you for a few weeks, a few months, or even possibly a few years. Each state has different guidelines. Each placement has different needs. Some are working toward transitioning home to their biological family. You become a huge part of that. Some will never go home.
And while some may eventually go up for adoption, it is important to note that foster care providers should never go into foster care with the intention of adopting. You should always be prepared to help that child go home to his or her natural parents. Always. No matter how you feel about those parents. You may be asked to work with the parents who are trying to fix the issues at home and get their little ones back via supervised visits. (Never alone. Always supervised by a clinician or agency rep). That’s part of your job. You must be prepared for that and willing to do that, or you need not apply.
Mr. C and I became care providers for two very good reasons. First, Mr. C was a foster child himself and he wanted to repay that debt to society. I was a parenting teen. I had my first daughter at age 17, and I wanted to teach young girls that pregnancy did not mean disaster. They would be okay. So we combined those two things into being foster care providers for parenting teens. Eventually we branched out to other populations as well, once we were comfortable doing so.
And while we thought that the benefits and satisfactions would be all ours, we had no idea the effect that the entire experience would have on our children. It was profound. I didn’t know that until one summer day in the mid 1990’s.
I was cleaning my kitchen when the door bell rang. We were living in a townhouse condominium complex at the time. I opened the door and standing there was a man, about age 30, with tear-filled eyes. He could barely get the words out when he spoke. He said, “Hello. You don’t know me. I live over at number 1119. I have the little boy you sometimes see playing with the water hose for hours on end. He has a severe form of autism. He’s . . . I’m sure if you’ve seen him you figured out something was different. Well… (tears now streaming down his face) I just want you to know that for his entire life I have looked out at the other kids playing in the neighborhood and it pained me to know that he would never play with them. They would never have him. I just knew that he would never be accepted. He can’t communicate at all, much less play. I new that until today. When your daughter rang our bell and asked if my son could come out to play. (Now we are both crying.) Thank you, he said. Thank you so much. Your children have the most amazing hearts of any that I have ever met.”
Call. What have you got to lose?