First, it's important to note that we are being reimbursed for our expenses after the fact. I know not every state/county/agency does things the same way, so what I'm describing is how it works for us specifically. We don't get any money up front for anything. We had to be able to prove during the licensing process that we are financially able to provide for all of our children prior to any reimbursement.
When the kids are placed with us initially we can save receipts and turn them in to be reimbursed for up to $100 in clothing. This only applies if the children are just entering foster care and is a one time offer. If the kids are being moved from another foster family, there is no clothing allowance.
Once a month we receive a per diem. Since it's public knowledge (available on the Texas DFPS website) I will share that we receive $22.15 per day per (basic) child. The monthly check is sizable in my opinion. And now that the cherubs have been with us for so long we don't have as many big purchases to make. But we're certainly not "making money". We are reimbursed for our time, effort and expenses to raise these children.
Of course all medical expenses are covered by the State at 100%. I know I've said it before but it's worth saying again....do not give out your social security number when filling out medical paperwork for your foster kids. Be careful what you sign. I refuse to sign the section of paperwork stating that I would be responsible should the children's primary insurance (Medicaid) not cover something.
But then we go about the business of living life. As a foster family there are extra expenses for food, water, electricity, and of course the all important gas (and wear and tear on your vehicle) as you transport to the million and one appointments. I'm running the dishwasher at least one extra time per day than I did before. I've got more laundry to do. There are also the extra meals out (or at least brought home) because schedules are a mess due to visits, social workers and other foster care appointments.
I also make it a priority to have "experiences" with the cherubs that without the per diem money we might not be able to afford. It costs a LOT to take a family of seven just about anywhere. But I want to make sure that my cherubs get to experience as much as they possibly can during their time with us. Who knows if they will ever get to have any of these experiences again if they return to their family of origin?! We've gone to the beach, the zoo, Sea World, the aquarium, Iowa, and so many more places.
The other day, while in the shower though, I was thinking about money...and foster parenting...and the things I've purchased just for my bonus cherubs.
That meant I had to remove the shower caddy that used to hang below my shower head. The hose on my new shower head got in the way. Still, I needed a place to put shampoo, soap and other shower necessities.
All this for Dolly's hair.
That got me thinking about other things around the house purchased just so we can be a foster family.
We have to have Class K fire extinguisher in our home. Ever priced one of those out? I was able to buy a refurbished one from a local fire safety retailer but it still set me back almost $200. Every two years I get to pay for a home fire inspection. I also get to pay to have all the extinguishers in my home inspected and tagged.
We have several of these lock boxes around the house. They are nearly $50 apiece. I have two for cleaning supplies and one for medicine.
Gotta keep the beer under lock and key too. I'll admit it though, my vodka doesn't always make it back to the locked fridge in the garage. I often just hide it in a cupboard in the kitchen. Shhhhh....don't tell.
Then there is this baby...all because I was told at our last re-licensing inspection that we had to lock up our pitch fork. $600 later (plus some extra fees because Mr. Amazing ended up needing some help with installation) we are now able to lock up our pitch fork. No, our bonus cherubs were never allowed in the garage before. And yes, the pitch fork was hanging neatly from hooks on the wall. Everything was perfectly safe. But now...we are oh so much safer because it is under lock and key. (be sure to read that with plenty of sarcasm!) We could have gone with a smaller cabinet so technically it wouldn't have to have cost quite as much as it did. But I also had to find room for a couple cans of house paint that also had to be locked up. It made more sense to buy a bigger shed than a small wall unit simply so we could organize our garage better overall. (And it wasn't possible to keep the garage locked all the time because of our bigger kids, their toys, and the extra fridge where I keep the milk. So a shed it had to be.)
Last on the list I could think of off the top of my head, but not least, there are all the shelving units I've had to buy to house all our bonus cherubs' toys. My cherubs want for nothing! And in order to keep "their" toys separate from "our" toys, I've had to get several different sets of shelves. The longer they've been here, the more they've accumulated. Of course some of their toys can stay in a communal area. But since we have blocks (for example) and they have blocks...things need to be kept separate so that when (if) the cherubs leave our house we will be able to find their toys.
Anyway...as I hope you can tell....my cherubs want for nothing. They have giant wardrobes. They have tons of toys. They get to do lots of cool things. And due to all the rules and regulations, their home is quite safe. I don't separate out the per diem money that we receive monthly and make sure that it all goes "just" to the children. I don't know how I could do that exactly (emphasis on "I"...others budget money much differently/better than I do). Instead, I live my life and I provide everything the cherubs need and then some. If my dishwasher isn't completely full, but I know that my life will be easier (and me a better parent as a result) if I just run it...I run the dishwasher. If I have to screw up my schedule because of a social worker and we end up getting take out...I don't worry about it.
I guess what I'm trying to say is...the per diem money is a reimbursement and I don't dwell on it. It's just added in to our general budget. I take care of the kids. I pay the bills. And we just keep on keepin' on. I'd love to hear how others do it though if you're so inclined to comment.