Mother for Hire

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Fostering a child seems like one of the most selfless acts imaginable — you welcome a child into your home, and care for him or her until a family comes along whose eyes light up when they see that child, and they sign adoption papers. My sister runs the foster care program at our local animal shelter, and the folks who volunteer for her put in long hours caring for dogs who need lots of love in order to trust humans again, or kittens who are too young and weak to hang out with the big cats at the shelter. They don't receive compensation, but people who foster children do. It makes sense — welcoming another human into your home means feeding, clothing, and sheltering a kid, and all that comes with a significant price tag. Mary Callahan fostered children, and, like any smart consumer, shopped around for the foster program that would provide her with the most money to care for her charges. But when one special child, Michael, asked her where the money came from, she had a crisis of conscience, and now believes monetary incentives for foster parents do more harm than good. What do you think? Do you foster? Do you ever feel like you're being paid to love your foster child? Or that it will look that way to the kid?

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I don't understand "not" wanting to get paid. If you truly care for and about the children where's the problem? Of course if people are only taking in children for the money then yes, that's wrong but I don't think foster parents shouldn't receive compensation.

Sent by Mary | 2:43 PM | 10-22-2007

I understand HER view how does she tell this child she's making money off of them BUT as an adopted person I don't think that NOT paying people to care for foster children isn't going to improve the situation. It's going to drive people away from fostering.

Sent by Mary | 2:46 PM | 10-22-2007

This is not relevant in many states. Especially those that are struggling to provide care through private agencies.
Couldn't an alternative discussion about fostercare better serve our children? This feeds into common misconceptions about foster families. I am a disappointed listener.

Sent by kristen lensch | 2:48 PM | 10-22-2007

My parents have done fostercare, and so did their friends. I know the money has always played a factor. Now they claim it wasn't much, but they still get money from the state even after adopting. It is just the money, but they also get free food, clothes and other things.

I am sorry money should never be motivation to raise kids.

Sent by Jonathan | 2:49 PM | 10-22-2007

Caring for children is expensive, no matter who is providng the care. It is full-time child care. This is like asking if child care providers should be paid? Some foster care families with limited financial resources would not be able to provide foster care without some sort of financial reimbursement. Would this mean that only rich families could provide foster care? Some people believe that only rich people should have children but life isn't like that. From my experience, rich does not always equate to good and loving. There are better and easier ways to earn money than providing foster care.

Sent by Frankie Fuller | 2:51 PM | 10-22-2007

My family did foster care when I was a child. My father recently said that the reason they started doing foster care was that one day my mother was standing in line at a drug store and in front of her there was a woman with her foster children. The mother treated them horribly and was complaining to my mom about how bad they were right in front of them. This lead my parents to join foster care because they saw the need for a good influence in the system.
The money they received for it allowed my mother to stay home with the foster children and me and my siblings, where she might not have otherwise.
We need uncorrupted parents willing to do this. There are too many foster homes taking money from the government and mistreating children.

Sent by Katie | 2:51 PM | 10-22-2007

As a child who was part of the foster care system, with three older brothers who were also put into the system. Three of the four of us experienced environments that were, for all intents, a living hell. That's three out of four. Personal experience, to be sure, but still something to consider statistically. The point I'd like to make is this: while I was lucky enough to have had a foster father who was very good to me and eventually adopted me, my foster mother actually complained openly as I got older that she wished they had kept me as a foster child becuase of the money. Granted, this woman was also violent and abusive, but the psychological damage of that and other comments has left scars that are still very sore, long after the physical abuses had healed. Foster parents should not be paid: it invites the absolute wrong type of people and puts the children in very frightening situations.

Sent by Les | 2:52 PM | 10-22-2007

As a former foster parent and the father of an adopted child. I find you guest disingenuous and dishonest. A nurse caring for a very medical challenged child may receive the amounts of money mentioned by your guest. However, this is still a fraction of cost of providing this health care in other ways. I have raised to specialized children and never received more than $444 a month per child. There more many children who need to be cared for the there are folks who know how to raise these kids. If your guest has a moral problem managing acceptance of funds then she should not children in her home anyway.

Sent by Tim Martin | 2:55 PM | 10-22-2007

I have known previous CPS employees who fostered 2 identical twins and who were able to purchase their vacation home and their business from the revenue from this girls.

This person was thus able to triple dip from CPS.

Coincidentally, the Mom was also trained as a nurse.

Sent by Fern | 2:57 PM | 10-22-2007

i worked in the foster care for 16 years in california. the children i had attended too were severly physically/mentally disabled. i.e., tube fed, wheelchairs etc, and the average "intelligence" of these children was about 6 months, although they were physically in their teens. the pay was excellent, but the work incredibly demanding. later i moved to nevada and inquired about foster care here, and the pay was so poor, i would have had to have several incomes to pay for one child. some abuse the system, others work for it. since i feel my time should be compensated for and my expenses reimbursed, reasonably, i decided not to do it in nevada. i miss being a provider, but will not go into debt because others can't raise their own children.

Sent by c. rully | 2:59 PM | 10-22-2007

The state your foster parent comes from is definitely not typical of most states. My husband is a foster parent licensing worker for the state of Illinois. His foster parents do not receive enough reimbursement from the state to cover the cost of caring for the children. Although I don't have the exact figures, the foster parents receive between $300 and $400 per child per month plus a clothing allowance. The only foster parents who receive more are those who take specialized children. These children have fairly extreme behavior disorders and are just one step short of being institutionalized. Then the foster parent gets around $1,000 per month per child and the number of children is limited. There should be a special place in heaven for people who are willing to care for other people's damaged children. Of course they should be compensated. No one in Illinois is making money from foster care.

Sent by Margaret Johnson-Dennis | 3:01 PM | 10-22-2007

I think it's bad that we have other folks raising some one else's children. helping to defray the cost of child rearing is the least we can do. Let's not forget most of the foster children left bad homes or no homes. The ones who should have a 'crisis of conscience' are the parents who lost their children to foster care.

Sent by Tony | 3:01 PM | 10-22-2007

Mary Callahan's experiences are not typical of the experiences of foster parents nationwide. People become foster parents because they feel 'called' to work with abused children, because they want to help children heal from trauma, and because they want to grow their families. None of those motivating factors is based on money. However,foster parenting is the hardest work there is, it is 24/7. It is intense and emotionally charged. It has very real costs to the families who take it on. It is exactly what the caller from Massachusetts described. I'm sure that Mary Callahan is well compensated for the job she does professionally. One of the biggest mistakes that the child welfare system has made in the past thirty years is in the belief that foster parents should be 'volunteers'. This is a very difficult job, and it deserves adequate and appropriate compensation. Nothing about that compensation changes the ultimate motivation or commitment to the needs of children. If Mary Callahan's nine year old had been slightly more obnoxious, she might have needed to view her work as 'professional parenting'. At that point, she might have felt that she deserved to be paid for the work she did. The rate provided to foster parents is either reimbursement for expenses (which are extraordinary for these kids) or payment for the work they do (therapeutic intervention). We are not paid to love kids. We love them because they deserve our love.

Caring for foster children is a parenting partnership between the agencies charged with their safety and the families providing the care. Both parties contribute extensively. The state's portion should include adequate reimbursement for expense and effort.

I certainly hope that Mary Callahan's position is viewed as it is, an anomolie. Mary lives in a world that most of us (foster parents) don't have the luxury to imagine.

Sent by Lori Ross | 3:17 PM | 10-22-2007

i'm a foster parent and have a few comments. 1) We are not "paid" we recieve a stipend for the children - a meager $312 a month ( which covers diapers, wipes, clothing, toys, food, etc). Yes, as a middle class family that money did help us provide for our foster child 2) if you insist the money is "pay" and we were being "paid" for our time it would work out to less than 50 CENTS an hour ($312/720 hours). that is 50 CENTS to cuddle, displine, clean up puke and snot, change diapers, hug, kiss boo-boos, LOVE and have our hearts broken for children who - through no fault of ours - are in the foster care system.

I'm sure in any government program you can find people who might try to "take advantage" of the system - but the majority of foster parents are just trying to help kids.

How about another story that helps support foster parents and the good work they do rather than perpetuating the image of the "bad foster parent!"

Sent by tsomers | 3:21 PM | 10-22-2007

I'd like to expand on the comments of the Massachusetts caller. I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a volunteer. A typical foster parent in California receives about $500 per month for taking a child. Further in California, a foster parent does not supervise parental visits nor have a voice in court as such a person indeed is not a disinterested party.
I am particularly dismayed that the op-ed piece Mercenary Mothers appeared in the LA Times when the author lives in Maine. Are there no newspapers there? What the author described was amazing to me and there is no question that Maine is out of line. I suspect there is less need for foster families in that state. In California, social workers are inundated with cases, struggle to keep up with the case load and to find quality homes.

I have volunteered to help many cases. Children hate the stigma of group homes. The number of families willing to take foster children is declining because payments don't cover costs. It is one thing to make the sacrifice of time and effort, but if basic necessities aren't paid for this nation will pay the price. Even the author of the article agrees. It is too bad she didn't choose an appropriate venue for her message.

Sent by Eloise Hamann | 3:21 PM | 10-22-2007

Mary, thank you for your point of view. I listened closley to your interview today to hear you say that because of your crisis of conscience you were donating all book profits to the foster program. Did I miss it?
Just because you can't put one child's queation in perspective, why should you question the motives of all foster parents? My parents were foter parents in Los Angeles in the late 60's and at that time if foster homes were onlt to be considered, if they would do it without compensation, foster kids would almost never find a home.
Please don't broad brush the whole system because of your guilt problems. Foster care is a great program and needs to be funded in order to work properly. thanks
Tom, Reno, NV

Sent by tom greco | 4:00 PM | 10-22-2007

I am not a foster parent, but an "aunt" to a little girl first fostered by sister and then adopted. It seems the author of the op-ed piece knows as much as I do about the challenges, motivation, cost of fostering children in all ranges of the spectrum of kids in the system. I was especially put off by her snide comment about ' how much does it cost to feed an infant?' No I take it back, she's out of touch where I am on a learning curve. Hopefully, some of this feedback will encourage her to do her homework before blowing a horn.

Sent by Lorna Pennington, NJ | 4:39 PM | 10-22-2007

I think this is a horrible show to promote when there are so many others that don't feel there is enough support for foster or adoptive parents, especially with Special Needs kids! I am really appalled and have tried to get past my depression about having to subsidize the rest of society by taking care of a child with not enough money to pay for medical, and pschological and raising costs of the child!! This is a horrible show! Not all states are the same!

Sent by lrs | 4:47 PM | 10-22-2007

This story will be very misleading to folks who know little about foster care. In a perfect world, the need for foster homes would be met by volunteers who could afford to care these kids without compensation. Until our society changes dramatically along with out nation's social policies, we have what we have which is a crisis of a lack of available homes that are woefully underfunded. The speaker's former agency sounds corrupt. NPR gave a misleading and unbalanced snapshot of foster care to many, many people today.

Sent by Eric | 4:51 PM | 10-22-2007

I live in the Phoenix area and have worked with foster and adoptive parents within the legal system. I was very disappointed in today's program. By trying to prove a point about subsidized foster care, the guest is ultimately hurting the children whom she used to love. Here in Arizona there are many more children that need homes than there are parents willing to care for them. The guest kept talking about foster parents "making money" off of their children. It's too bad that some people she knows have done it for the money, because the majority of the foster and adoptive parents I know do it out of love. There will always be those who take advantage of the system, but why punish the majority who don't?

Sent by Jennifer | 5:09 PM | 10-22-2007

I was in foster care in the 80s. My family only allowed me to eat bread and eggs, while their own children at whatever they wanted. I had to do all the housework, and when my clothing allowance came, they gave it to their own children. They said this was prep for "independent living." In another foster home, the father abused me and used me for their own pleasure. The social workers didn't care, and, in my experience, the people who foster parents are exploitative, manipulative people out for the cash.

Sent by Kate | 5:17 PM | 10-22-2007

I was driving in my car...THANK GOD...otherwise I would be in my office and probably wouldn't have heard this segment. I am an attorney who specializes in the defense of Termination of Parental Rights cases. What the Ms. Callahan writes is something I have felt for years, i.e. the foster parent stipend and (at least in Wisconsin)the subsidized adoption is a business. The money has simply gotten in the way of providing care for children by individuals who are doing so for no other purpose than an open heart and home. In my practice, Ms. Callahan is correct, there is a HUGE incentive for the foster parent to shade the truth about the child's adjustment to the foster home and in turn denigrate/sabotage the efforts of the biological parent to reunify with his/her child. I'm a child of Watergate and my cynical mantra is "follow the $$$" THANK YOU MARY CALLAHAN!!!

Sent by virginia | 6:07 PM | 10-22-2007

I lived in a foster home for slightly more than a yr starting at the tender age of nine. There were two families of three children from each family plus a teenage son of the foster parents. We all knew the providers were getting paid because the foster parents shared that fact. If all it took was a salary to guarantee better treatment for kids in foster care there wouldn't be any horror stories to tell. I'm sorry to say I have my own war stories to tell

Sent by Virginia | 6:10 PM | 10-22-2007

How much does it cost to feed an infant? $13.97 a can of formula that lasts about 1 1/2 weeks - so around $140.00 a month. I am angry that someone and NPR would take this stand. I do not believe for a minute that foster care should be about getting rich, however, the money given is for the kids. I am a foster parent of 1 and adoptive parent of 2 who were in my home as foster kiddos for 18 months. I by no means have increased my lifestyle but given them one that they deserve. I do believe that there needs to be better tabs on how the money is spent. I have seen many kids in care neglected by their foster family. This is a problem with the system not the money

Sent by Mommyof3 | 6:20 PM | 10-22-2007

Paid to take children? No... foster parents aren't paid to take children, they recieve a stipen that helps cover SOME of the cost of these children. Clothing, school supplies, special equipment, childcare, etc. The amount recieved is so very much less than the actual costs to care for the child. Combine this with that foster parent needing to be there for these kids 24/7, means that the foster parent if a working parent also misses plenty of time from work, which is not reimbersed.

I agree that some foster parents may start fostering for all the wrong reasons. If their reason is for the money that is definately wrong and will likely be "weeded" out quickly; maybe like Mary Callahan after only 5 children.

Sent by Kathy | 6:31 PM | 10-22-2007

I think that your title says it all, you have a guilty conscience and are trying to impose that to the rest of us who are in it for the right reasons. What a shame to compare children with animals! What a dog costs you to care for is not even compareable to a child, shame on you!

Sent by David Matthew Dubbeld | 6:35 PM | 10-22-2007

Your vast experience speaks for itself - 5 whole children . . . . and a book about it. Wow. And for the revenue you receive from the book, I am sure you have started a fund to further the education of foster children. Right??

Sent by Pam | 6:45 PM | 10-22-2007

First of all, foster parents don't get "paid" to be parents they get child support from the state since that is ultimately who is responsible for them.

I have fostered my two children and adopted them last December. We got "child support" to care for them and the state made it clear that I was to stay at home with them. Both kids were extremely delayed in school so I took the opportunity the state (justifiably) gave us through supplementing our income to home school my kids and to bring them up to grade average.

I think the author of this book doesn't have enough experience to write this book and I wonder what her motives were in writing it. (Is she making money to write things people want to hear?)

I want to read a book from people who have been struggling with children in the foster care system. The parents that have had to go to school every other day because the child couldn't handle the school environment. Lets also talk to the parents who lost their jobs because their child was expelled so often that they couldn't continue to work. I want to hear from the parents who have lost their homes because a child burned it down or destroyed the furniture and walls. (But they never gave up the kids and continue to do what is necessary to keep the kids even though every one they know tells them to give up). Lets ask these parents if they believe they are being paid too much. Sorry Mary, it looks to me like you've lost sight of the forest while looking at the trees.

Sent by David Wilson | 7:44 PM | 10-22-2007

How fascinating that so many foster parents are so defensive, or frightened at the prospect of losing some of their pay, that they didn't listen to what Ms. Callahan actually said. And how revealing that so many are immediately ready to impugn the integrity and motivation, and post vicious personal attacks on someone just because they disagree with her.

She did not say foster parents should receive no compensation at all. Rather, her column was motivated by proposals to require states to reimburse foster parents for every dime spent on foster children, not just for necessities, but for every toy, teddy bear and video game. How can anyone claim to love a foster child as they do their own and then insist that every dime of expenditure be reimbursed?

As Ms. Callahan also pointed out, she repeatedly saw foster children who were taken from their parents largely for reasons of poverty. Those children could have remained with their own parents had they gotten a fraction of the help even low-paid foster parents typically receive. How unjust to suggest, as some have, that foster parents need a huge raise when they already get so much more help to raise other people's children than impoverished birth parents get to care for their own.

And it's a bit scary to read all the claims that foster parents are working 24/7. Being a parent of any kind is the most challenging combination of work and joy that anyone can experience. But shouldn't we worry about anyone who views every second they spend with their child as a chore for which they must be compensated financially?

In fact, surveys of foster parents find that pay is low on the list of reasons for quitting; issues like communication with caseworkers and respect from those they deal with in the system rank far higher. That's because most foster parents are indeed in it for the right reasons and really do what they do out of love and concern for children. But the more that states give in to pressure to make foster parenting more lucrative, the more that it will attract people for the wrong reasons.

And Ms. Callahan aptly responded in her op ed to those who feel foster parents should be paid in the same way child care workers or people in other helping professions are paid. She used to feel the same way about being paid to be a foster parent as she felt about being paid to be a nurse. Then, she writes, she realized the difference: "I don't say 'I love you' to my patients."

Sent by Richard | 7:51 PM | 10-22-2007

My kids are in foster care due to "lack of supervision" which is CPSese for "taking your eyes off the child for 3 minutes". I've done everything I was supposed to do, but it's been 5 months and there is no end in sight.

I'm starting to get the hang of the rules of their game. For example, they can't tell a parent to leave their spouse, but they can refuse to return children home if there is a history of domestic violence and the parents are still together.

We're lucky though. Our kids were bounced through 3 different foster homes each during the first 2 months of foster care, but are now in a good stable foster home and are allowed contact with us.

I've been reading up on the foster care system from every possible point of view, and it seems like the one thing everyone agrees on is that there needs to be change, that the system currently is too wrapped up in it's own bureaucracy and does not place the well-being of children as top priority.
CPS is like tennis- love means nothing.

Thank you for raising the public's awareness of this issue, and please continue to allow a wide variety of voices to be heard.

Sent by Nell | 8:10 PM | 10-22-2007

It is heartbreaking to hear someone say that the financial part impacts their motivations for children so much. My partner and I were foster parents and eventually adopted. The subsidy and medical benefits were the only way we were able to take care of our boys that had (and continue to have) serious emotional and medical issues. We do not have to hesitate to get them into therapy because we know we can afford it, I work part time so I can be home with them after school. One of our boys had to have several surgeries, we had to stay home for weeks and weeks managing his catheder. It was what he needed and we did not have to wonder if we could afford to do it. We did not have to send him to another home to have him cared for. When we do get a break to spend time for ourselves we have to get two babysitters to manage their behaviors. We live in a modest home, and don't get to see family that live across the country often enough because we can't afford four tickets. It may sound like complaining but I am not, it is the reality of our life. We are happy to do because they are the most important thing to us.They are without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to us and they are part of our family we never knew was missing. (And I would say the same thing about them even if they had been able to return to their birth parent. ) The problem is without the financial support of the adoption and foster care subsidies we could not have done it. We could not have even considered it. Shame on you for advocating against good families, and I know dozens of them. I am all for foster care reform, not taking from the kids.

Sent by Keli Pia-Miller | 8:20 PM | 10-22-2007

I have been a foster parent since 1989, we specialize in fostering sibling groups, long term, who have extreme emotional or psychological needs. Many of these children come to our home as discharges from psychiatric hospitals or residential treatment facilities. We have been "Mommy and Daddy" to over 68 children in that time. Yes we get reimbursed for our expenses but it is never enough to cover the costs of the child. My children get soccer and dance classes, piano lessons and gymnastics lessons. My children are dressed in clothing appropriate to our middle income neighborhood, they are never treated any differently from our birth children. Does the reimbursement cover the costs? No, we lose money on these kids. I quit my full-time job to stay home and provide a stable environment for children who were constantly being expelled from school, needing transport to therapies, medical sppointments, etc. With one child who everyone on the treatment team agreed could benefit from a very good developmental daycare, I was expected to pay for the daycare, it came to $75 a month less than her total remimbursement. That theroetically left $75 for all her food,clothing, extra curriculars, etc, did we force her to live on just $75, of course not, she still got the clothes, shoes, costumes, dance classes, toys, books, learning supplies that any other child in our home would get.

The foster care system is broken, there are some poorly supervised and trained foster homes out there who may be abusing the system, but for NPR to let this woman have a soapbox for her book(where are the profits going?) is disheartening. There are so many real issues to be explored about the foster care system, there is so much need out there for good, experienced foster parents who will do whatever it takes, above and beyond the call of duty. Why can't NPR have a positive story on foster care and the efforts that are being made to fix the situations? Why can't NPR focus on the "good" foster parents to encourage others to take on this difficult, time-consuming, emotionally draining, and sometimes thankles job? How about a story on one of my foster kids who overcame gross neglect, abuse, placement in residential treatment for over 6 years, separation from her bother, etc. Yet she went on to win an art scholarship to a prestigious art college, finished in four years, went into working w/ other abused children, became a SW, recently got married and has made a success of herself.

Or how about the story of young boy who came to us at age 5, having lived in psychiatric hospitals and institutions since the age of 2. We were told by many of the professionals that worked w/ him that it was not a good idea for him to be in a family, that he would need to live in an institution all his life. This was one of the few children we seriously considered not keeping in our home because of his level of violence. He was kicked out of the day treatment program at the psych hospital for being too violent for the staff to handle and sent back home to us and our family. But we hung in there w/ him, we loved him, we worked w/ him and we worked w/ his father. We mentord his father in parenting skills, patience and apprpriate behavior management. He eventually returned home w/ his Dad where he is doing well. He still struggles w/ physical aggression w/ peers at school but is doing sooo much better. He called recently to talk to me about his baby sister and his summer camp program. How much money was that worth? Could anyone truly put a cost on saving a young boy from growing up in institutions, for teaching a young father how to be a Dad?

Let's have a real discussion about foster care.

Sent by Elizabeth Yeager | 8:27 PM | 10-22-2007

I enjoy hearing various perspectives about foster care on NPR, but this one really upset me. I am a public child welfare worker in California, so I am not aware of the pay rates in other states. However, it is VERY difficult to get $5000 per month for two children here. Even medically fragile children that require high levels of care don't get that amount of money from foster care funds. Your guest also made foster parenting seem like a simple act in which one takes a needy child home and that child easily melds into the family. As a social worker and licensed foster parent, I can tell you that even taking a newborn baby into your home turns your life up-side-down for a while.

Children in foster care ideally live at the same economic level as the foster family in which they are placed. Therefore, if a wealthy family chooses to become foster parents, they may be able to afford to assume total financial responsibility for any children they take in. However, most of the best foster parents are those who are working class and who cannot absorb the cost of another child's school clothes, food, movie tickets, sport shoes, counseling, travel to visit parents (who may live far away), and vacation expenses. That does not mean that the average income family does not have enough love for the child they take in. And, if the family benefits financially from the arrangement, then they deserve it! Everyone in the household, especially the other children in the home, will have to make significant accommodations for the new children and may then need counseling themselves.

While the idea of people not being paid for taking care of foster children is nice and ambitious, but even with the current pay rates, foster care is no attracting enough foster families. Most foster parents are paid between $425 and $900 per month. The compensation is for the expenses for the children, but also for the very real stress and time that is necessary to care for these children. Many times children are aggressive, violent, sexually acting-out or have serious emotional and behavioral problems. Foster parents often have to take time off of work to care for the children when they are sick or are suspended from school. The children runaway, steal things, lie, hurt pets and other children in the home. Taking care of foster children is not the same as taking care of one's own children. Both you and the child will not have the same history or bond that you have with your children. Also, birth children learn from infancy what the expectations are in their home. Many of the children who are in foster care grew up in homes where there are no rules or there was no stability or consistency, so they do not easily acclimate into homes where the parents establish rules and expect compliance.
People will do anything for money, yes, but those who chose to do foster care for money are also those who usually stop being foster parents after the reality of the situation hits home.

Sent by M. Morris | 8:31 PM | 10-22-2007

My time must be spent in FST meetings, court, hosting theropist, parent aids and social workers in my home, running a child to therapy once a week, keeping a daily log of a childs life, a life book of memories,numerous phone conversation's with professional's required, dealing with parent's who I will never understand, helping teach the parents, my commitment, my strength, my lack of sleep due to caring for a sick child, unexspeced trips to the doctor to make sure the child doesn't get sicker, must spend time in class room settings to better my education on how to parent a hurt child(to no fault of mine), answering a child's questions but being careful not to critisise the parents who threw them away, and show them that no matter what they do I am here, love the children and let them know they always have a place to call home!
I am a "professional mom" experienced and trained and proud to say I make $2.08 a DAY to care for 4 little sibling's that no one else will care for! Just as a doctor, I put the pieces back together and make them better. Just as a teacher, I teach the children how to be what we all wish for our own children.
Let me ask, who in their right mind would take a job with this job discription for $2.08 a day?
(4 children total pay) Where are all the people who can afford to tell the state to keep their money because they have enough? Mary why did you quit? Not enough money, too much money or just simply not enough LOVE! Reality is hard to deal with and only the strong survive!

Sent by Teresa | 8:34 PM | 10-22-2007

We were foster parents in Michigan. We left the "racket" after adopting four of the children we fostered. The story is very long and sad. Fortunately for our family we got out alive (this is not hyperbole, we were threatened), but others are not so fortunate.
We buy Mary Callahan's book in bulk and give it to anyone we meet who is considering fostering.
Don't foster in Michigan! Incidentally, the $14 a day we received as foster parents, does not include the $24 our agency received for "administration." Those overhead costs are rarely discusses in public forums like our program. Follow the money. Check out the IRS-990s of these so-called "non-profit" agencies.

Sent by Mark Sweetman | 9:01 PM | 10-22-2007

I am horrified that any state is paying $5000 for a child in care. Normally the daily "stipend" is somewhere between $10 and $20 a day, not even enough to cover a child's basic living expenses.

It is not a "good consumer" who shops around for the agency willing to pay the most money for each child; it is more likely a person who is fostering for the money.

To the many, many foster parents caring for these children because they truly want to help, I say thank you and God bless. To those who are "doing it for the money" I suggest you examine your conscience as Mary did.

I've been employed in the foster care system (after being a foster parent) in Massachusetts, Maine and Florida and can state, unequivocally, that private agencies competing for dollars are one of many, many factors hurting both the system and the children.

Sent by Irene Callahan | 9:38 PM | 10-22-2007

Allow me to present my credentials. I am a 58-year-old African American woman. I have successfully raised two children, a 30-year-old daughter and a 22-year-old son. The best job I've ever had was that of mother. I am good at this mother gig. It seems I can't get enough of it; I am currently "Mom" to my late sister's son, my ten-year-old nephew. He is not a foster child. He is off the grid, so to speak, never having been in the "system." I have, however, been a licensed foster parent in the past.

I want to congratulate foster mom, Mary Callahan, on her maternal largess, and her apparently ample if not deep pockets. I both admire and envy her despite her parochial views regarding financial support for foster families she expressed in "Mercenary Mothering."

Parenting isn't easy, nor is it cheap. It is especially costly to raise kids in California . A single-parent family needs an annual income of $59,732 in order to pay basic bills. A two-parent family with one employed family member needs an annual income of $50,383 to eke out a living, according to "Making Ends Meet: How Much does it Cost to Raise a Family in California?," a report by the California Budget Project.

Many families who would make good foster families do not have incomes nearly that high, including mine. I would consider fostering a child, but not without financial assistance. It would not be fair to my nephew, nor would it be fair to a foster child.

It takes $709 a month on average to raise a child in California. The monthly cost of group home placement can range from $1,500 to $6,000 (for emotionally disturbed kids), yet a foster children placed in a family is expected to live off of $425 a month.

I know families who are caring for foster children who would be unable to do so without the meager financial support they currently receive. Many other families would be willing to foster a child if it didn't mean having to make a monthly trip to the food closet or relying on other charities just to get by. Yes, poor people can be good parents. Mine were. I am.

California is mired deep in crisis. It can't find enough homes for the its nearly 80,000 foster children. This is personally devastating because seventy percent of the children in foster care look like they could be mine -- my grandchildren, my nieces, my nephews -- they are black or brown.

Finally, Ms. Callahan, if I may quote Tina Turner -- "What's love got to do with it?" You believe families should foster children purely for the love of parenting. That is laudable, but dangerously short sighted. You see, love dies a horrible death when it has the life squeezed out it by poverty.

There is honor in parenting, but parenting is also work. There is honor in work, but workers need to be compensated. Children are our future -- foster children as much as others. Why consign them to state sanctioned poverty?

Sent by Terris | 9:43 PM | 10-22-2007

We had a foster daughter who left our care to live with a relative in Illinois, and she had a very bad experience in Il. Luckily she came back to stay with us. The system workd much better in Mich.
The problem is in states that have privatized parts of their social programs. Foster Care programs should be adequately funded and under state administration. Foster parents should be compensated adequately for their expenses.
Jeanine

Sent by Jeanine Santini | 2:15 AM | 10-23-2007

I would like to say if reimbursement wasn't available for foster parents, a lot of beautiful children would go without a home or the love they need to grow. Foster parents do the job they do out of "love" for children. The maintenance provided to them to help raise these children doesn't even come close to what it costs to raise them. I had someone tell me that it takes deep pockets to raise these kids and I agree. My husband and I foster those severely medically needy children. These are the children that the parents and most foster parents won't parent. The maintenance for these children doesn't even come close to meeting their medical needs. Miss Callahan and others that don't feel foster parents need compensated for taking care of these children need to foster children with special needs. Maybe their minds would change about the compensation rate. Most states don't even come close to maintaining or reimbursing foster parents for what they do. The foster care programs are here to help the children and that is what foster parents do, help the children.

Sent by Willie | 10:47 AM | 10-23-2007

There has to be a balance. The parents need to be compensated as it is costly to add another person to a household. However, when there is excess cash flow, then that flow needs to go to the child's future (bank account, college savings). It is wrong to gain money from caring for children...it hints at ownership of the child; especially if a parent is doing excess to increase/continue monthly payments, i.e. extra mileage or stating that a parent visit went poorly to continue foster care payment. When it comes time for foster children to leave foster care at 18 there is seldom a monthly paycheck to assist with rent so a child can go to college, purchase textbooks or clothing, never mind money for health insurance. As an adult who grew up in foster care, there is nothing worse than finding out that my parents were never going to be capable of caring for me. Even worse, was knowing that the people who did got paid for it; leaving me feel as an object for sale.

Sent by Lee Ann Freitas | 11:10 AM | 10-23-2007

You know Mary it doesn't matter about the money in my situation. It deals with my real blood family and I could care less about it. Yeah, it helps to get paid but I would Foster any kinship child. Where would these children be without their grandparents and foster parents? Look at the women who give them away and no one wants to take them. What are they supposed to do. Let the state take care of them. It doensn't matter who takes care of them it is still going to cost money. With all of us doing the work we are doing giving the children homes to live in feed them and clothe them the state doesn't have to pay for that stuff we do. With the little money that we receive from the state. Why did you stop fostering children is it because of to little money or is it because you don't need to receive anymore from the state because you have such a "wonderful book" and now you dont need the money.

Sent by Ruth Driver | 11:18 AM | 10-23-2007

Let's get real, Foster Parenting is a calling, It takes a very special person to be able to bring children into the home with the many problems foster children bring with them. The state cannot began to paid for the complete care a foster family is giving out to the children in their home. biological children have to give up many things to make room in their own family and family circle to add another member. Foster Parents have to give much more time to a foster child than their own children, The foster home is open to many social workers, Licensing workers, therapist, case workers many meetings and Physician appointments, dental appointments, biological parents, Parent aides. Mentors. the foster parenting home becomes an open road.And to think that a small token of funds given to the fostering family is in no way compensation for the many tasks and problems that come with foster parenting. The State in Missouri only gives a child 250.00 dollars a year for clothing (teenagers). What can a teenager do with just 250.00 for all four seasons for clothing? You better believe that the foster parent is picking up the shortage. Christmas they get 50.00 gift certificate and a few donated things? Yes the foster family much pick up the shortage again. school activities foster care pays for no school activities, Yes again the foster parent picks up the bill. Teenagers must have incentives, again the foster parent picks up the bill for that also. And the weekends outings, The movies, going skating, the amusement park etc Yes the foster parent must pick up the bill. Just remember these children are in our homes they deserve to have the same things our own children have. they are included on our family vacations, And yes the foster parent pays for all that. For someone to thing that a foster parent is to care for a child who is in state custody and the state is responsible for these children is insane to believe that foster parent should not get paid. If I was to have a child and just had to pay someone for that child to say with them for 24 hours a day 365 days a year and all I was to give that person was 250.000 dollars a year for clothing and less than 400.00 dollars a month for their caring for them I would be arrested for child Neglect. Daycare services cost more than foster care payments to foster parenting.

Sent by Paula | 11:18 AM | 10-23-2007

I really don't know where in Maine this woman works, but in our state foster parents do not get any of the perks that she was mentioning. In fact, very little money is given. Food and clothing are paid for using vouchers and there is no "recreation" money, milage, vacation and movie tickets. Foster parents here are lucky if they can get an "extra" food voucher if they have four or more foster children.

Sent by elaine | 12:25 PM | 10-23-2007

We have been fostering children for 17 years and we have had it both ways. We volunteered caring for infants from birth until they were placed with their adoptive families for 3 years. The agency provided the diapers and formula, we just had to provide the care and love. For the past 14 years we have fostered "older" children. We now take in the children that do not "make it" in society. They are the ones that are kicked out of daycare or are being moved from place to place because of their behaviors and anger. They kick holes in our walls and urinate on our floors. They steal, lie and sexually act out. They threaten to kill themselves or others. They do need 24/7 care and we do require breaks that are paid by the State. We have been trained, on the job and in classrooms for 14 years, learning to deal with these children. We consider ourselves professional parents. We are paid to help these children become "socially acceptable". We keep them until they can return successfully to their bio families or are placed successfully in an adoptive home. We do all this work for less than $2.00 an hour because we are committed to our children and our work with them. We have had over 140 children in our home and many of them want to come back to visit or at least stay in touch. We don't do it for the money but we couldn't do it without the money either.
Mary Callahan, who compared children to animals has lots to learn...especially before writing a book about a subject so broad that she
obviously knew very little about.

Sent by Mary LeFebvre | 1:19 PM | 10-23-2007

I was appalled as I listened to Mary Callahan. Usually NPR has programs where both sides are represented but this was very biased. Some people say raising a child is the hardest work there is, and I agree. However, raising a foster child is even harder. Someone made a comment about how parenting is not a 24/7 job. You may not be interacting with the child every minute but you are responsible for the child all the time. Apparently Mary never had a foster child with major problems, but usually children who come from homes where there is physical or emotional or sexual abuse have many, many problems. I am a social worker who worked for the state for 5 yrs. licensing and relicensing foster homes and helping place foster children in the homes. Foster parents are special people who open their homes and hearts to children who are hurting in many ways. They see children who steal, lie, harm pets, set fires,sexually abuse the foster parents own child, etc. Yet they continue to work with them, showing them love and discipline, which many of the foster children have never received. In this state foster parents are not "paid to take care of the children" but rather receive a stipend of between $500 and $600 monthly. They are given a small clothing allowance when the child is placed, but there is no money for travel expenses or other things Mary mentioned. Parents do not use the money for their own needs, but rather use it for the food and other needs the child has, plus give the child a small allowance. This program was a disappointment as it helps fuel common misconceptions about foster parenting, and as you can see there are many misconceptions out there.

Sent by Ann Bowman | 2:51 PM | 10-23-2007

I heard Mary Callahan on the radio while driving back to my full time job where I make a measly $11 an hour.
It made me queasy. My husband and I have been trying to conceive a child for the past 5 years. We have been through several things in our quest for a family- including IVF, (paid by my health insurance-) which resulted in a miscarriage. We have also been signed on with a private adoption agency in VT for 1 1/2 yrs, waiting to adopt an infant... We have in addition received a foster care license through the state of NH. We decided from the beginning that a foster care license would allow us to seek "foster-to-adopt" situations where we could adopt the child(ren) in question. We thought foster care alone would be too heart breaking- since many times children are returning to families that are repeatedly abusive and neglectful. The folks that are able to provide this type of care are prominently wonderfully caring unselfish people.
Finally after years of waiting we discovered a sibling group of 3 in a neighboring state. We expressed interest in them, and have now after 3 months of visits established a wonderful relationship. Financially speaking, we are middle to lower class. We have more than $40,000 in combined student loans, Thousands in credit card debt, and we rent an apartment. We live modestly, and are slowly trying to achieve are goal of home ownership. We have formed a great relationship with these 3 kids, who now refer to us as mommy and daddy. We did not going into any of this realize that funds were available to help us support these kids. We have agreed to adopt them, and the process is now rapidly moving forward. We have found out that we will receive a modest amount of money from the state in which we are adopting- That money will allow me to cut down my work hours from 40hrs per week to 20- so that I can be home with the kids when they are not in school. Keeping 20 hours will allow me to provide health care and benefits to the entire family.
Without this modest amount of money, I fear that would would find ourselves in severe financial straights. Healthcare, food, clothing, and mental health counseling for these abused children will be very expensive. With the subsidy we will be able to continue chipping away at our debt, while keeping our jobs, working towards our goal of having that house with the big fenced in yard, and most important of all have the free time necessary to raise these children who would otherwise grow up in several different foster homes, and never the know security, love, and belonging we are so thrilled to be able to provide for them.
Foster and foster parents should not be made to look greedy and manipulative. Not all parents have selfish motives; Most are folks who want more than anything to provide love to children that have experienced hell, and perhaps to selfishly be able to parent the children they are unable to having through birth.
This women should be ashamed for painting such a picture-- and should a more productive way of dealing with her guilty conscious.

Sent by angela harris | 10:20 PM | 10-23-2007

As the working part of the couple, my wife spends so much time that whatever they do reimburst her is actually piddly compared to what a local tribe would get for the native children my wife watches. The tribe has an old style orphanage for their kids. If we didn't have professional parents as the author of the LA Times article says, you would return back to orphanages.

Sent by James D Webster | 12:11 AM | 10-24-2007

Much of foster care is now privatized.

So, like the insurance companies who *manage* your health care, the privatized FC agencies will make the spread between what foster families will accept and what the agency needs for their *overhead.*

Just as we have now privatized *oil hunting* in the Middle East with mercenaries ( who make 3x what the young folks in the military make), BIG BUSINESS WILL do what Great Britain does and have FC on the equity markets.

In other words, like our privatized prisons, traded on the NYSE, our FC can also be as such.

What a way to criminalize everyone. Except for the middle class in the US.

Sent by Janice | 4:48 PM | 10-24-2007

Many children are taken out of loving homes that do not have enough money and resources to make it. Then they pay strangers to raise the kids. Why not just pay the bio parents that want to stay home and raise their own children first?

Sent by Dawn | 1:52 PM | 10-25-2007

This is horrible...I am outraged!

Sent by diva sinclare | 3:39 PM | 10-25-2007

I think the facts of what brings everyone to these types of situations to begin with needs to be examined very carefully. First you have states that are paid federal "adoption Bonus Monies" (and yes that is the exact term used on the Health and Human Services website) to encourage and increase the number of completed adoptions to a higher percentage than each states previous year's totals. So, where do you think the state's stand when it comes to making the important decision on whether or not to remove a child from their bio homes and place them into a foster situation? Yup, they remove the child because otherwise the federal dollars cease to flow. Next, if the states provided family support services, as they are federally mandated to do to begin with (but fail to adhere to) the need for foster care would go way down. Thirdly, if kinship placements were the first placement options, like they are also supposed to be by federal mandate, you wouldn't have such a need for foster care to begin with. When you have a lack of standardized removal criteria of children from their biological homes, it leads to serious questions regarding the validity of the removal decisions being made.

Sent by jane | 5:58 PM | 10-29-2007

Mary Callahan is the kind of foster parent that the Foster Care Auxiliary wishes didn't exist...she does it for the money???saying she shopped around for the highest paying agency and took the hard to place kids for the same reason. The rest of us know that we are not paid for the love we give these children...but rather we are 'compensated' for SOME of their expenses. As recent articles have highlighted, the compensation does not cover the cost of raising a child, and most foster parents in our group know that there are many personal sacrifices they make as well as financial to be able to offer our county's most vulnerable population a home. That Mary thinks the money allocated to foster parents, should instead be given to the birth families is ludicrous at best...does she know where these children come from???? what they have been saved from? I have had many birth families reunited with the children I have fostered...it was never money that kept them from meeting the basic requirements of parenting.
Kathy Harvey, President
Foster Care Auxiliary of Orange County
www.FosterCareAux.com
'

Sent by Kathy Harvey | 10:28 AM | 11-1-2007

I would just like to say something about this person's comment:
"Many children are taken out of loving homes that do not have enough money and resources to make it. Then they pay strangers to raise the kids. Why not just pay the bio parents that want to stay home and raise their own children first?
Sent by Dawn | 1:52 PM ET | 10-25-2007"

The children I am adopting not only came from a biological family that wasn't able to financially meet the children's needs- These children were victims of
physical abuse, and neglect.... There were born with various substances present in they're bodies, and social services was called several times over many years when people noticed weird bruises, etc. Giving this family a monthly check would have resulted in more babies, more drugs, and more children growing up in a hell. It takes a lot for a child to be permanently removed from a biological family. I think a lot of folks don't realize this.

Sent by angela | 10:09 PM | 11-2-2007

I am a foster paret to 3 children (all siblings). I am also a social worker.

I fear that ms. Callahan is falling into the trap of finding causation in a symptom of a much larger problem. I was FURIOUS when I heard the interview. It was rife with inaccuracies and misinformation. NPR should be ashamed of themselves.

And just for the record, the stipend we recieve for all three children - ages 3 & 17 mos old (twins)doesn't even begin to cover the expense of transporting them to birthparent visits, court hearing (which are usually "continued" 2 or 3 times), diapers, wipes, special diets, medication not covered by insurance, childcare deposits, childcare expenses 9while we wait a year or two for them to qualify), clothes (we had 3 days to get ready for the twins and they had no appropriate clothing - we were told they were out of funds when we asked), cribs, car seats, etc., etc.

Sent by marlaena | 12:32 PM | 11-5-2007

I was a foster child from the age of 9 until I aged out at 18. I am now 35. I was never adopted by anyone. So, today I still search for that since of belonging from women. wanting to have a mother of my own. It's very lonely. I cant relate to the simple things that women my age experience like, cooking together in the kitchen or going shopping, getting simple advice as to different things in life. My foster home experiences were brutal in many aspects. I didnt allow the negative experiences to change my life visions. I just found out that I can be legally adopted at my age in a court. Now I have been praying for an african american woman to cross paths with who really wants a daughter in her life. Maybe it sounds a little weird but it's no different than a person having a dream to get married or to have children mine is simply wanting to get adopted by a real mom.

Sent by autumn | 9:07 AM | 3-17-2008

Rates for Intensive Foster Care have not been raised in over a DECADE. Being reimbursed for the care of a child from the state is no different than having NONCUSTODIAL parents pay child support to the parent who is doing the ACTUAL WORK entailed in raising child and paying the bills. With gas at $4.00 a gallon and children and teenagers whose needs include weekly therapy, school IEP meetings, review meetings that are often far away-- tell me who would consider DOING foster care at all, if the associated costs for providing the home, food, and transportation were NOT covered. Currently we have not even gotten any COST OF LIVING Increases, much less a raise in the rate. Currently there is a big SHORTAGE of homes, too. This has nothing to do with being paid to "love" a child, it has to do with the practical aspects of having NEEDED resources to take care of a child. Foster care, by definition is not a permanent solution for any child, there is no longer endorsement for long term foster care for children, even though there is little difference between the subsidized alternatives. I care for my foster children, I do what is right by them, try to correct problems with their IEPs, at school, I get them to their therapy, medical, dental appointments. When their personal checks for their clothing, birthdays and holiday money FINALLY arrive, I make sure every nickel of it plus some, goes to the intended purpose. However, without payment, I could definitely not AFFORD to be a foster parent. What we do is WORK, the State doesn't want to call it that, because paying people $2.00 an hour is a lot less costly than paying someone MINIMUM WAGES. We need economic equity as foster parents and anyone saying foster parents don't deserve to be reimbursed for caring for children literally 24 and 7, needs to wake up. There aren't a lot of millionaires out there looking to take care of children and teenagers who often may: damage property, act out, have court dates, special emotional or health needs-- are there? Most families aren't even capable of dealing with the situations that foster parents commonly do work with. At intensive levels of foster care, we have children and teens who act out by setting fires, cutting, and acting out in hostile ways to anyone and everyone who tries to get close to them, just because normal sorts of attachment have become THAT painful for these hurting youths. You want to add all sorts of undue economic stress to all of that? Good luck finding foster parents, we are about as uncompensated and unappreciated as I plan to be. By the way, I do love working with these children and teens. I was also a foster child, otherwise, I'd probably be doing something a lot less challenging and a lot better paying.

Sent by Cee .Ann On | 8:03 AM | 5-8-2008