Hitting the MARC: Establishing Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children

States must raise the rates by which they reimburse foster parents by an average of 36 percent to cover the actual costs of supporting a child in foster care, according this report. Its sponsors said it is the first state-by-state analysis of the expense of providing for the housing, food, clothing and other basic needs of foster youth.

Most states were found to be paying foster parents far less than what middle-income families spend to raise their children. Researchers estimated the national average monthly costs of raising a 2-year-old foster child at $629, a 9-year-old at $721 and a 16-year-old at $790. But the average rates paid are $488, $509 and $568, respectively. The report recommends a uniform rate (the Minimum Adequate Rate for Children, or MARC) that can be adjusted to account for state variations in the cost of living. Its proposed rate is based on expenses reported by middle-income families in a U.S. Department of Labor survey, plus a 22 percent increase for extra food and other resources needed by foster youth who may have been malnourished or abused.

Using that standard, the study found that only Arizona and the District of Columbia are meeting or exceeding the MARC.

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