Foster Care Payments; How much do you get?

Foster Care Payments differ from state to state. Let’s discuss what the payment is and the eligibility requirements to receive the payment.

Introduction

In foster care, a child or young person is taken into care when they need a safe, nurturing environment. Foster care means the child will live with a different family that intends to provide a secure and caring home. This could be due to addictions, mental health issues, neglect, or abuse. According to an article in SBS1, approximately 46,000 children are in ‘out of home care’ waiting to find foster families.

Foster care placements can be short-term, last for a few months or in many cases end up permanent too. It is a voluntary undertaking meaning that there are many expenses that may not be covered in the allowance provided by the government. Let’s look more deeply into foster care payments and how they work.

Do Foster Carers get paid?

Yes, Foster carers have access to financial support that will cover the day-to-day costs of caring for the foster child. This will assist and help to cover their basic living costs such as food, clothes, travel, utilities and household bills, occasional gifts, hobbies, general educational expenses and pocket money.

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How do foster care payments work in Australia?

A caring allowance is a fortnightly base payment provided to all approved carers if they provide direct care for a child under the Child Protection Act 1999. It is important to understand that payment is different from a salary and wage. Instead, carer support payments can be viewed as more like a reimbursement to cover the cost of caring for a child.

How much do Foster carers get paid?

According to the NSW government website2; First, an establishment carer payment is given to the carers to help cover the costs of buying essential items when the child initially comes to stay with them. This will help cover items such as a pram, booster seat, nappies, bedroom furniture, school uniform etc.

This is categorized into 3 different types of payments:

1.   Establish Crisis Payment ($75)

2.   Establish Short-Term Payment (Up to $350)

3.   Establish Long-Term Payment (Up to $1500)

Then, the fortnightly payments help to cover the everyday costs of the child. The Department of Communities and Justice in NSW gives the following rates which are just an approximation, and the final amount will differ for each child.

●    0-4 years = $540

●    4-13 years = $609

●    13-15 years = $817

●    16-17 years= $544

Does it differ by state?

Yes, these payments vary according to all the different states as well as the individual needs and requirements of each child.

What are the eligibility requirements for foster care and payments?

The eligibility to be a foster carer and receive payments is decided depending on an assessment of household members for criminal checks, personal and medical referee checks and financial capacity. The candidate should be an Australian citizen and ideally over 25. Mainly the agencies will check for proficiency in these four areas:

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– The person/family’s willingness to become a foster carer

– How well the person or family can foster positive development and effective well-being for infants and young children

– The ability to ensure children can grow up in a safe, secure environment that is free of abuse and neglect

– The person/family’s ability to be part of a team

foster parent, foster care
The eligibility to be a foster carer and receive payments is decided depending on an assessment of household members for criminal checks, personal and medical referee checks and financial capacity.

Do foster care payments get taxed?

As mentioned above, this payment does not count as an income for providing care. In turn, you do not need to declare it in your tax return. The QLD government website3 further clarifies that this payment cannot be used as ‘income’ when applying for a bank loan.

When do foster care payments start?

The foster care payments begin automatically once the child is taken into care.

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When do foster care payments end?

In some states, foster care ends when the child turns 18. This was the case in NSW until recently. In 2022, NSW has now extended the age4 at which a person can stay in foster care from 18 to 21. This means that young people will be assisted for three more years unless they choose to leave home, or their carers will get paid the continued allowance if they stay at home.

How long does it take to get foster care payments?

Foster care payments are paid fortnightly. It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes processing errors do occur meaning there could be underpayments or overpayments. If this happens you will need to notify your Child Safety Officer immediately.

FAQs about foster care:

What does it take to be a foster carer?

Although it is different for each state, as outlined by the South Australian government website5 the process of becoming a foster carer can take approximately 6 months. The whole process involves contacting a foster care agency to express interest. The agency will then send you an information pack, answer questions and meet you face-to-face. Next, the agency will carry out a series of checks on the family such as a referee check, medical check etc and to check if the home is safe for children.

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A series of training sessions is then given to ensure you understand the role of a carer and are equipped with all the necessary skills. After all the necessary paperwork is complete a child may be welcomed into your home for foster care.

foster carers
Although it is different for each state, the process of becoming a foster carer can take approximately 6 months.

Are there different types of foster care?

Yes, there are a few different types of foster care, the most common ones are described below:

Respite Care: This is about looking after children for short stays. E.g. weekends, holidays or one-off overnight stays.

Emergency Care: In emergencies when the child is at immediate risk; emergency carers can be called on short notice.

Short-Term Care: In many scenarios, children need a stable home so carers will look after a child between one month to two years. The child will reunite with his/her birth parents or guardians once they have improved their ability to care for a child. 

Long-Term Care: Due to some circumstances, a child may need a safe and secure home for a long period e.g., from a very young age, until they reach adulthood and can be independent.

You can read more about Foster Care on the Barnados website HERE6.

foster care payments
Carer payments assist with the costs involved in caring and providing for a child, but they are not treated as ‘income’

Are foster care payments treated as income?

No, Foster carers are simply volunteers, so they’re not paid a wage or salary. The financial assistance is provided by the state Government to help and assist with the day to day costs and expenses of looking after a child.

Are foster care payments enough to cover the costs of foster care of a child?

No, it may not cover everything a child needs but will certainly assist you with all the basic needs.

Final Thoughts

The decision to become a foster carer is not one that should be taken lightly. You will potentially be providing financial and emotional support for children and young people who have come from a wide range of situations including abuse, domestic violence, turbulent and disrupted households, or they may have an intellectual or physical disability or medical condition, and these kids will most likely feel vulnerable, anxious and scared.

Carer payments assist with the costs involved in caring and providing for a child, but they are not treated as income, and you may end up spending more on this child/ren in the way of irregular expenses, than the baseline amount you are receiving from the government.

Have you ever thought about becoming a foster carer, or do you have experience with foster care in any way? I would love to hear from you, and add any valuable comments or experiences to my article!

Reference List:

  1. ‘Foster care in Australia: How does it work?’, Chiara Pazzano, SBS. Published: May 31, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/en/article/foster-care-in-australia-how-does-it-work/tulp3ywup on March 15, 2023.
  2. Foster carer support and resources, NSW Government. Accessed online at https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/families/carers/support-and-resources/chapters/financial-support on March 15, 2023.
  3. Carer allowances, QLD Government. Accessed online at https://www.qld.gov.au/community/caring-child/foster-kinship-care/information-for-carers/money-matters/carer-allowances on March 15, 2023.
  4. ‘NSW extends the age a person can stay in foster care from 18 to 21’, Heath Parkes-Hupton, ABC News. Published: Nov 6, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-11-06/nsw-increases-age-children-can-stay-in-foster-care/101620794#:~:text=states%20and%20territories.-,State%20funding%20for%20a%20child%20to%20live%20in%20a%20foster,NSW%20currently%20ends%20at%2018 on March 15, 2023.
  5. ‘Steps to become a foster carer’, SA Government. Accessed online at https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/care-and-support/foster-care/become-a-foster-carer#:~:text=You’ll%20need%20to%20participate,identity%20and%20birth%20family%20contact on March 15, 2023.
  6. ‘Types of foster care’, Barnados Australia. Accessed online at https://www.barnardos.org.au/foster-care/types-of-foster-care/ on March 15, 2023.

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