Is foster parenting an option for people who are not rich? What if the child has extra expenses, like for therapy or medical care? Kids’ expenses add up quickly. Luckily, most families can afford to foster children because the state pays many of these expenses.
The Department of Children’s Services, (DCS), is the government agency in Tennessee that oversees many adoptions, foster placements, child relocations, investigations, child abuse and neglect. DCS helps families who foster children by assisting them financially.
DCS policies state that, “Foster parents providing residential care for children in state custody or in guardianship will be paid a board rate based on the needs of the child and the funding.” Simply put, people who foster children will get money from DCS to pay for many of the foster children’s needs. This lessens the cost of caring for children in the custody or guardianship of DCS and helps ensure that families won’t be deterred from fostering children because of money. DCS refers to these payments as Foster Home Board Rates.
The amount of aid that Foster Families can receive via Foster Home Board Rates is determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the specific needs of the child. DCS has four different rates:
1. Expedited Board Rate
Typically reserved for emergency situations, DCS pays this board rate when the foster parent and the foster child know one another. DCS typically pays this rate to “a blood relation or significant relationship with the individual,” otherwise known as a “Relative Caregiver” or “Kinship Placement.” Unlike the other board rates, the Expedited Board rate is only available for up to 120 days, absent filing a request for an extension and getting that extension approved. The amount of the Expedited Rate is $7.06 per day per child until DCS fully approves the foster home.
2. Regular Board Rate
DCS pays this rate to a fully approved foster home for all children in DCS custody or guardianship. DCS bases the specific payment on the age and a review of the child’s documented level of need. DCS does not consider the foster family’s other income. DCS adjusts the rates routinely to reach the median income levels of the USDA cost of living in the urban south. The Regular Rate for children ages 0-11 in foster care is $26.22 per day per child, and the Regular Rate for children ages 12 and older in foster care is $30.06 per day per child.
3. Special Circumstances Board Rate
Children who have unique needs due to a diagnosed medical or mental health condition that substantially limits one or more of major life activities may qualify for a “Special Circumstances Rate.” Major life activities include things like walking, speaking, breathing, working, learning, performing manual tasks, vision, self-care, etc. The child’s impairment must require a higher level of supervision and care. You will likely need an attorney to advocate for this extra rate. The Special Circumstances Rate for children ages 0-11 in foster care is $28.84 per day per child, and the Special Circumstances Rate for children ages 12 and older in foster care is $33.06 per day per child.
4. Extraordinary Circumstances Board Rate
DCS only pays extraordinary rates for children who have met all three criteria for a Special Circumstances Rate but have additional extensive and unique needs. Foster families must document two or more medical, behavioral, or emotional issues in two specific categories of care. DCS determines the amount to pay on a case-by-case basis, at either $40, $50, or $60 per day per child. Qualifying for this rate requires engaging in a multi-step process. We recommend foster families who need this rate hire an attorney.
Foster care is an emotional and financial commitment. At Held Law Firm, we are committed to advocating for our foster families to get the best support possible, from DCS and from other resources as well.