The Hidden Bill For Foster Care How states charge the poorest families and children for the cost of foster care
Special Series

The Hidden Bill For Foster Care

"No one understands it," says Sylvia Cunningham of how she and her husband, Brandon, holding Braxton, 2, got three of their children returned from foster care, including daughter Jordan, 17 (at left), but a court allowed one son to be placed for adoption because the Cunninghams had failed to pay part of the bill for foster care. Phyllis B. Dooney for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Phyllis B. Dooney for NPR

In some states, an unpaid foster care bill could mean parents lose their kids forever

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1148829974/1148830462" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Laws allow kids to be taken away from their parents if they fail to pay debts

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1145714364/1145716303" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A closer look at the practice of billing parents for their child's foster care

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1145579344/1145579345" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Kathy Stolz-Silvis was nine years old when her father died, making her and her siblings eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. But she didn't become aware of those benefits until decades later. Libby March for The Marshall Project hide caption

toggle caption
Libby March for The Marshall Project

Daisy Hohman was separated from her three children for 20 months when they were placed in foster care. When Hohman was reunited with her children, she received a bill of nearly $20,000 for foster care from her Minnesota county. Joseph Shapiro/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Joseph Shapiro/NPR

States send kids to foster care and their parents the bill — often one too big to pay

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1049811327/1068335076" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion to make sure foster youth who receive Social Security benefits have access to those checks. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, co-sponsor of the motion, said the new directive is a "game changer." Sarah Reingewirtz/MediaNews Group via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Sarah Reingewirtz/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

"This will help a lot of single parents out there," Daisy Hohman, a Minnesota mother whose tax refunds were garnished after her three children were placed in foster care, says of the change in federal guidance. Meg Anderson/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Meg Anderson/NPR

The federal government will allow states to stop charging families for foster care

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1107848270/1109883904" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Movement Grows For States To Give Back Federal Funds Owed To Foster Children

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/992993650/992993651" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Consultants Help States Find And Keep Money That Should Go To Foster Kids

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/991503850/991503851" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Clockwise from top left: Tristen Hunter, Ethan Harvey, Malerie McClusky, Katrina Edwards, Mateo Jaime and Alex Carter. Ash Adams for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Ash Adams for NPR

State Foster Care Agencies Take Millions Of Dollars Owed To Children In Their Care

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/988806806/991343066" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript