Help Us Help Our Foster Kid Adult
August 6, 2022 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Our foster child is going to become a legal adult in January and the monthly stipend we currently receive for fostering him will be going directly to him. How can we help start preparing him for that financial transition and teach him to wisely manage that "windfall" he will be receiving monthly?

One thing we'll do his "charge" him for room and board (we'll hold onto that money in a special account for him for later), though we're not sure what would be a reasonable amount. Are there budgeting apps designed for teens that encourage saving? Any other suggestions of resources that assist with the transition to adulthood for kids in the foster system?

I feel like we're on borrowed time because though he will always have a home base with us if he chooses, the choosing will ultimately be up to him, along with how much help he wishes to accept. There's an ILP program but he doesn't really take advantage of it because of communication issues. His college costs, if he chooses to go, won't really be an issue because he'll qualify for financial support for a few different agencies. I also have questions about managing the change in relationship status once he becomes a legal adult living in our home if you have thoughts on that, or have had a foster child in a similar situation.
posted by ms_rasclark to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If he’d be open to it, consider a trial of You Need A Budget. It’s a great budgeting software.

As for the status change, well it’s very similar to having a bio kid turn 18, isn’t it? You can still have “house rules” & expectations.
posted by dog-eared paperback at 2:55 PM on August 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

'aging out of foster care ' is a thing that happens in various countries. And yes it can be a difficult. The foster kids, not quite adults , face challenges. They are still learning to become adults.
posted by yyz at 3:14 PM on August 6, 2022

Sorry, I don't have any advice. But I want to thank you, first for giving the kid a foster home, and second for still allowing and even cultivating the idea of keeping a home base for him. So many of these kids are all alone, and let down time after time. Thank you.
posted by NotLost at 3:26 PM on August 6, 2022 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Actually, I would consider charging him at least 30 percent of his income for the room, and then add on some amount for the food, etc.

30 percent of income is general guidelines for how much shelter should cost, at least in the USA.

(Maybe it would be good to tell us where you are? And is the teen in high school, or what?)

Any help you can give toward jobs and careers could probably go a long way. I know that at that age, I didn't have much idea of what I could do with myself. Maybe ask him about working with "What Color is My Parachute" and mentoring toward some informational interviews.

I know there are books about "how to adult" that could be guides for you or him, but I don't know any details. Is he already used to doing chores around the house? Phase him into doing such things as his own laundry, taking care of at lest his own room, maybe making dinner once a week. Does he know basic car maintenance, such as checking oil and air, and changing a flat? Whenever he is ready to shop for an apartment, can you help him with that, and screening roommates? Maybe teach him a little about investing and credit. The recent question on life skills for teens might be useful.

Just brainstorming, I hope it is some help.
posted by NotLost at 3:35 PM on August 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have him open a separate emergency savings account right now and you can start putting 10% of his stipend into it. Encourage him to continue that habit with the money he receives.

The reason to do this now is for him to see a good example of money accumulating. He may end up blowing it all at the races, but at least he'll have been exposed to the right idea.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:49 PM on August 6, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: IMHO I think you should charge an amount that is similar to the cost of room and board he can expect to pay once he moves out. I think you might want to consider working with him to create a budget (merely just the suggestion of an app may be insufficient).

Does he have a drivers license? a car? Does he need one or both of these?

Has he held a job before? Is he aware that taxes come out of his paycheck? Is he aware that he (will) have to pay taxes? Does he know how to use his bank account? Is he aware of how many hours he would need to work at minimum wage to earn the same amount that is in his monthly benefits?

Does he know at what age he fully ages out of the foster care system and benefits stop? Is he eligible for SSI benefits?

Does he know how health insurance works? Does he need one final reminder to set up doctor and dental appointments?

I think it's important to be upfront with your expectations about him living with you as an adult. At minimum he needs to be respectful of everyone in the household and keep you updated about his comings and goings. It's also okay to be upfront about any terms and conditions about staying with you. (Does he have to be working or in school to stay with you, barring an exceptional reason)? What about any drug or alcohol use/ possession?

There questions were brought to you by watching a friend's foster children go through this.
posted by oceano at 4:57 PM on August 6, 2022 [10 favorites]

One thing we'll do his "charge" him for room and board (we'll hold onto that money in a special account for him for later)

Does "legal adult" mean 18? The reason I ask is...while I completely understand what your intentions are here, you should ask yourself whether you would charge any child of yours room and board at that particular age. Maybe your finances mean you need at least some of that stipend as a practical matter to maintain their care, I don't know; that would be legitimate. But I would at least try not to frame it as "room and board" rather than something more general like "contributing to the household finances now that you have a real income." Because I can very easily imagine a situation where a foster kid being told they're expected to pay "room and board" would make them feel as if care was contingent and your home life an economic transaction.
posted by praemunire at 5:13 PM on August 6, 2022 [32 favorites]

I also charge my (biological) adult child for 'rent' based on a percentage of their income which I bank and intend to return to them. Being an adult only happens overnight in the eyes of the law, we need time to learn these skills.

My kid also accessed a young person savings program that matches the amount they save. Perhaps there is something like that where you live?
posted by latkes at 6:08 PM on August 6, 2022

Best answer: My adult kids live with me and the rent idea is good. They also buy groceries for special things they want to eat and will label them in the fridge/pantry. I have one who has poor financial skills and there’s a co-account we both have to agree to take money out of where windfalls and his regular very small contribution goes into. I have the same set up for my much younger kid. It is used for large planned purchases like phones and laptops, and occasionally for gifts or treats during a bad patch, and intended to be their ‘fuck off fund’

You can search for financial games for kids and there are a lot of choices. Teaching them how to read a contract, walking them through comparative shopping - I showed them how to compare prices for a phone bought on contract vs secondhand vs new from shop over the lifetime of product, taking them grocery shopping, explaining medical bills and mortgages - all that helps.

Also modelling sitting down regularly to look at bills and finance and planning is very helpful so they know ok this is something to do and it’s not shameful/hard. Also how to identify scams and advertising pressure.

I bought insurance policies for them that I pay because I have shitty insurance and wanted them to get cheap term policies while they were young and healthy, but the American side is so bizarre, I don’t know if that’s feasible for you.

Good luck! Try not to rescue them from being ordinary broke kids and create a safety net for true emergencies.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:15 PM on August 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

- Does he have a bank account?
- Does he know how to write a check, or deposit one?
- Does he have any experience paying bills? You could put his cellphone (assuming he has one) in his name and have him pay the bill.
- As I understand it (double-check me) you can establish an IRA in his name before he's 18 so it's just there, and hopefully he'll put some money into it while he's young.

Spend some time talking about credit cards, and interest, and debt, and payday loans, and which debts are worth it and which ones aren't.
posted by adamrice at 6:51 PM on August 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can you say more about what the "communication issues" are? Because really, this is a process that his case managers ideally would have started years ago, and the ILP should help, if those issues can be sorted out.

But you've got 6 months now. What are the things a young adult would need to understand and know how to do in order to live independently that your child currently doesn't have the skills to do? You've identified budgeting, but break down specifically what that means. It's not just about not blowing through all your money on the first of the month. It's also about setting long term goals and figuring out what it'll take to meet them (and sometimes setting the goals is the hard part!) It's about knowing what expenses are reasonable ones to expect, and how much those things actually cost in the real world. It's about understanding the kinds of emergencies that can come up, and figuring out in advance what you might do to plan for them or be prepared if they do happen. It's about learning how to manage the resources you have wisely, both financial and nonfinancial (think about how you might not just budget for food, but also meal plan to make sure you don't waste anything, figure out what to do if something unexpectedly goes bad, buy things on sale in bulk if you can afford it and then use them up before they expire, build up a supply of staples like spices and oils, etc.).

What responsibilities does your child have in your household now? Does he cook? If not, can you start teaching him? Could you put him in charge of some specific thing in the household, like from now on laundry is his responsibility and it's his job to manage getting it done in a timely and efficient way? Does he currently get an allowance or otherwise have money of his own to manage, and if not, can you start that now? Has he ever worked for money? Can you afford to set aside the money you're planning to charge him for rent and food, so that he'll have a savings account to move out even if he's not able to save anything else (ILP might help a little with this, but not much, and in my jurisdiction it would be very hard to get financial resources from ILP if you haven't previously engaged with them)? If he plans to go to college or post-high school education or vocational training or even just try to get his own place, does he know what expenses will and won't be covered by the programs he's eligible for?

And also, thank you so much for not treating your child like a stranger you are being paid to care for, for seeing him more like family who can always come back to you and not like an economic transaction. He's still a kid, and he'll be a kid for a while longer, even if the system has declared him legally an adult. Thank you for seeing that.
posted by decathecting at 6:59 PM on August 6, 2022 [7 favorites]

Oh and the reason why I suggested to charge the amount that is about the same as local food and housing costs is to provide training wheels and a safety net for this young adult. If he can manage his finances well while paying this amount, then this bodes well for him living independently. If he can't... well then he still has a roof over his head and food in his stomach, and hopefully he will do better next time. (Alternatively, the benefits aren't enough to survive on, and that's probably better to find out with a safety net than without one). Plus, paying rent will help make money seem more tangible if he can see that he only has x amount left to spend after paying rent.
posted by oceano at 7:50 PM on August 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

-if you can help them establish identity as much as possible e.g. getting then a passport. always helps to have this form of ID, which is as good as 3 pieces of paper any other time you are getting a job, is very replaceable if lost. State ID + Drivers license are also huge.

-offering the use of your address as a permanent address as needed

thank you for being a foster parent!
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:54 PM on August 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

In the UK, this is called Staying Put - I don't think you are in the UK, but some of the guidance around that might interest you. For instance, the case studies and quotations from carers and young people in this recent review of the policy.
posted by paduasoy at 4:56 AM on August 7, 2022

we'll hold onto that money in a special account for him for later

Make sure he knows that
posted by trig at 5:43 AM on August 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: we'll hold onto that money in a special account for him for later

Make sure he knows that

But also make sure he knows what he will and won't be able to use that money for. Can he ask for it whenever he wants, or is it only for approved purposes that you'll decide? If he wants to take off with no plan or a plan you don't approve of, will you keep it? Forever? If you die and the money is still there, will he inherit it from you? He needs to know whether this is an emergency fund (e.g., he can use it if he has an unexpected car repair or needs to buy new work clothes in order to be able to start a new job), or a fund for some specific purpose (education, setting up his own household whenever he's ready to live on his own, etc.), or money that will be his when he turns a particular age even if he might blow it all on weed or video games, or an account that is yours that you might let him draw from if you approve of the way he'll use it. That's both the way respectful adults treat each other, being candid about their interactions, and also will help him plan for the future if he knows that money is there and what the rules are about his access to it.
posted by decathecting at 4:27 PM on August 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (IANAfostercaresocialworker, but I have worked with a lot of system-involved kids. Here's the philosophy through which I'm looking at this:

I'm starting from the premise that your child has, like most other children who have been in the system, experienced a lack of two critical things: stable adult role models from whom they can learn how to do things, and dependable rules and routines they can count on so they know what's going to happen next. Everything you do to prepare him for independent adult life should keep in mind that, at base, what your child needs is to know what's going to happen in his life, what resources he has available to build from, and how to build the skills to handle things most adults handle for themselves. He's likely not spent a lot of time being able to learn and observe from adults successfully adulting. He's also likely had a lot of time where both the adults who were supposed to take care of him and the resources available in his life have been unstable and not trustworthy to count on.

Kids who have had unstable childhoods often blow money as soon as they get it if they've grown up seeing that anything they don't spend right away might get snatched away by someone else and disappear without them being able to use it. It's the same reason some kids hoard food or possessions, overeat, or otherwise act possessive about money and belongings. He needs to trust that the money will come every month like clockwork, that no one will take it from him, and that money he saves will still be there when he needs it later and will benefit him more than spending it all at once. He needs to see the connection between effort and reward in ways that many kids with unstable childhoods don't, because he may have had past experiences where he worked really hard and the promised payoff didn't come, or where random windfalls or bailouts from outside sources saved him or his family without much effort. Both of those make it hard to trust that effort leads to reward.

He also needs to trust that adults who make him promises will keep them. You don't say how long he's been with you, but he may still carry the mental scars of a young child who was promised by adults that they would always take care of him, and then they disappeared or hurt him or died or broke their promises. That's a hard message to un-learn, but by telling him clearly what you're prepared to do for him, and then keeping your promises every single time, without fail, you help him learn a new message: that people who care about you can be trustworthy. That also helps him learn why he himself should strive to be trustworthy, because being honest with you about his needs and struggles will get him more help and benefit than trying to lie or manipulate you into meeting his needs, which he may have had to do in the past.

If any of this isn't applicable to your child, feel free to disregard. I know I've written a lot here, and in really broad strokes. But I've seen the pattern numerous times, and I thought it might be helpful for you to understand the reasoning I used to make some of the suggestions I've made.)
posted by decathecting at 4:39 PM on August 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I just want to jump in here and say that, while some people are suggesting you not charge room and board, I kind of wonder if the youth will be receiving a disability allowance or foster kid allowance. Where I live, people who have disabilities often transition on to disability (sometimes forever and sometimes till they're older). Those kids do pay an amount to their parent, fixed by the region. Kids who live at home and access student loans may also have to do this. And kids from families that don't have a lot of money often need to contribute, because child support has ended, the young person is an adult, etc.

If you can afford not to charge it, it is a better idea to have them pay it and put the money aside for later. Otherwise, these various systems (student loans, disability, work programs, foster transition, etc) may see that the youth isn't paying anything. They will then judge you to be supporting the youth or they may decide the youth doesn't need the funding. If something happens to you or your income or things go sideways for the youth later, this could affect all sorts of things.

Please connect with foster transition advocates where you live. Also, consider whether this young person may qualify for disability supports that were camouflaged by foster supports and scaffolding.

Doing this could help them years from now with various supports, including supported housing. You have to look at more than just this fixed point in time. Imagine them being 45 and in a bad divorce and you're elderly. Will they be okay? What can you do to ensure there has always been documentation to make sure they will qualify.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:11 AM on August 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh… and a demonstration / modeling of the power of compounding interest
posted by oceano at 10:31 AM on August 10, 2022

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