For the past year my husband and I have been certified foster parents. In our case, we took in a relative who needed a home. Over the last year we have learned a lot about the benefits of foster parenting. Though you won’t get rich being a foster parent (and you shouldn’t be in it for the money, anyway), if you’re a foster parent, there are many benefits available for you and your foster children.

But before we get into the benefits, I want to make one thing clear. As a foster parent, you will not make money. The stipend foster parents receive is usually not enough to take care of all the needs foster children have. If you were thinking of becoming a foster parent to supplement your family income, foster parenting is probably not for you.

If you do decide to become a foster parent despite the financial cost, though, you should take advantage of the many programs out there to help foster parents and their foster children.

Financial Benefits for Foster Parents

Tax Breaks

If your foster child lives with you for more than half the year, you can claim that child on your tax return. You need to make sure you have your foster child’s social security number, so ask your caseworker for it well in advance of filing your tax return.

With the federal tax exemption for each dependent being $3,700 and the child tax credit being $1,000, foster children can make a big difference in how much you have to pay in taxes.

Discount Programs

If you’re a foster parent, you should sign up for iFoster, a national program that offers discounts to foster parents. After you sign up, iFoster will verify that you are a certified foster parent. Once verified, you will be eligible for benefits such as discounted refurbished computers, discounted theme park admissions, discounted cell phone plans, and much more.

iFoster works with Abenity, which provides corporate discounts for many businesses. By using iFoster’s discount program, my family is saving 22% on admission to the San Diego Zoo on our upcoming vacation!

When shopping locally, never be afraid to ask if a business offers discounts for foster families. The worst a business can say is no, but if you’re fortunate, you may land a small discount! It never hurts to ask!

State Programs

I live in Oregon, and one of the benefits of being a foster parent in my state is free admission and camping at state parks when we camp with our foster child. We can stay up to 14 days at a time at any state park, which makes for some fun and inexpensive family getaways. Washington state offers a similar program.

Indiana offers a free membership to The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis. Other states may offer different programs. Ask your certifier for known discounts in your state.

Local Foster Parent Association Benefits

Our local foster parent association provides many benefits to foster parents and their children. They have a warehouse, stocked with clothing, furniture, and other things foster parents may need when they take a new placement. Association members are free to take what they need for their foster children.

The foster parent association also provides birthday gifts, Easter baskets, Christmas gifts, and school supplies for foster children. Local businesses make donations to the association, such as bread and baked goods, and these are passed on to foster parents. At $35 a year, joining the foster parent association provides more than enough benefits to justify the cost.

When you become a foster parent, your number one motivation should be that you want to help children. Foster parenting is not a money making venture. If you do decide to become a foster family, though, make sure to take advantage of the benefits available to you. These benefits are there to make sure your foster children receive the extras they wouldn’t otherwise receive. So enjoy the benefits for your foster kids!

Are you a foster parent? What are the benefits you’ve found in your state?