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Fostering for Profit

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Fostering for Profit is a scenario where a foster family treats the raising of a foster child purely as a business. They are in it only for the money the kid brings in. Therefore they spend as little as possible on the kid. They are also emotionally and often physically abusive towards the children.

There are several possible ways this scenario can work. In some stories, the real parent of the child (almost always a single mother) is still alive, but cannot take care of the child herself, so she makes her own arrangements to have a family take care of the child while she sends them her own money to assist in raising the child.

In modern stories, a more common scenario is for the children to be in the custody of the state but placed in a foster home. In this scenario, the government gives the foster parents money that is supposed to go toward taking care of the child.

This can be very similar to an Orphanage of Fear. See also Abusive Parents, Department of Child Disservices, Financial Abuse, and Wicked Stepmother. Compare Illegal Guardian, where the payout is something bigger and more dramatic.

Very often Truth in Television. Those stipend checks are quite large.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Case Closed, Yukiko Kudo eventually shows up and asks the Mouris to keep taking care of her "young son" a little while longer. Ran's father Kogoro wasn't very keen on the idea until she handed him the $10,000 (1 million yen in the original) check for Conan's expenses. The whole situation is Played for Laughs.

    Comic Books 
  • A variant in Doom Patrol where the young Gar Logan (yes, that one) was put with an Evil Uncle who was only interested in access to the late Mark and Marie Logan's insurance money. The Patrol was definitely not happy, and when all was said and done Gar was Happily Adopted by Rita Farr (Elasti-Girl) and Steve Dayton (Mento).
  • In the old days, Billy Batson's back story involved living with an Evil Uncle named Ebeneezer who tried to force him to steal money for him, who later stole some money that Billy was set to inherit from another relative. By that point, Billy had run off and wound up living on the street.
  • Scott Summers of X-Men was in a similar situation: Jack Winters intended to use Scott's mutant ability for financial gain using the 'pound him into compliance' method.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Doonesbury, Duke starts an orphanage and acquires as many kids as he can in the expectation of a big government payout.

  • In the Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- fanfic Freefall, some of the people fostering Fin and Sebastian do this.
  • Some Harry Potter fanfics where Harry is being abused by the Dursleys have his aunt and uncle being a given a stipend by Dumbledore or from the Potter vault, which they spend on themselves and their son Dudley. A few even go as far as Vernon doing everything he can to prevent Harry from being rescued, despite not wanting his nephew, simply because he doesn't want the payments to end.
    • A variant in The Best Revenge, where Snape realizes they've been pocketing the benefits they receive from the British government.
  • Subverted in Son of the Sannin. Yugao confesses to Naruto in Chapter 71 that part of the reason she and Hayate volunteered to raise Haku was because of the hefty sum Jiraiya offered for it, since they wanted to buy a house for themselves. However, given that they planned to have a family of their own, they figured it'd also be good practice.

    Film — Animation 
  • Anna fears this is the case in When Marnie Was There. She is suspicious of her foster mother's secretive behavior, then finds a letter saying that she gets stipends for taking in Anna. When Anna tries to subtly give her mother a chance to admit to this, her mother acts very guiltily. All of this causes Anna to become jaded and withdrawn. At the end of the movie, her foster mother confesses that while she is given money to raise Anna, she didn't care about that and took Anna in because she wanted to. The reason she was so secretive was that money was tight, but she didn't want Anna to think she was a burden.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the movie Hotel for Dogs, near the end of the film, the brother gets shipped off to one of these... and is miserably unhappy.
  • There's a family in Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's It Takes Two (1995) that turns out to have been adopting kids by the half dozen to force them to work in their junkyard.
  • Miss Hannigan in Annie (2014), at least at the beginning of the movie. When Annie suggests to Mr. Stacks that he could take her in as part of his publicity stunt, she mentions the stipend as further incentive, which he takes as an attempt at a Comically Small Bribe.
  • A variation in Not Cinderellas Type, where the uncle and aunt that have adopted their niece have appropriated the life insurance payout on her mother's fatal car accident and forced the niece to sell nearly all her property, while simultaneously making her feel as if she's a burden and treat her more like a live-in maid than family. Fortunately, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs at the end, when others learn of this. That's why we have Child Services. Indy ends up Happily Adopted, and the uncle and aunt are forced by the court to pay her back the insurance money, plus extra for all the years of emotional and physical abuse.
  • Pack Up Your Troubles: After Eddie is killed in World War I, his adorable little girl is taken in by a sleazy criminal. The sleazy criminal's beaten-down wife confronts him about how he only took in the little girl for the paycheck. Fortunately the late Eddie's Army buddies, Laurel and Hardy, rescue the girl, and set off in search of her grandparents.
  • Flo Healy in Problem Child borders on this. Over the course of the film she's more concerned about the status and prestige that having a child would give her, and a scene prior to Junior's adoption shows she's bitter about not being invited to children parties because she doesn't have one. By contrast, her husband Ben is more interested in being a father rather than the benefits he could gain from it.

  • Heralds of Valdemar: In the first book of the Collegium Chronicles, dialogue implies that Cole Pieters was doing this with Mags and the other orphan children he had working at the mine. In the last book, another character points out that if Cole had been smarter about things, he could have continued it by letting Mags be Chosen instead of trying to obstruct that and then collected the stipend that families get when they have a child Chosen that was originally working to help them. At that point, Mags would have been too scared to tell the truth about his situation, and his guardian could have claimed to have just adopted him in order to explain away how undernourished he was.
  • Joe Pickett: The foster home where April winds up in Below Zero is taking in as many foster kids as possible for the money provided by the state, keeping the kids in terrible conditions, and the foster father is pimping the girls out. The scam is exposed after one of the girls runs away.
  • Part of the sad backstory of Detective Harry Bosch, as related in The Last Coyote. When he was sixteen and living in an orphanage, a guy named Earl Morse took him in as a foster child. Morse was a baseball coach and got really focused on teaching young Harry how to pitch. Eventually Harry figured out that Morse adopted Harry, who was a lefty, for the sole purpose of making him into a pitcher. After Bosch said he'd never touch a baseball again, Morse gave up and signed the papers to allow Harry to enlist in the army.
  • The Thénardiers in Les Misérables bleed Fantine dry with their demands for more money for Cosette while coercing labour from the girl and stinting on her food and clothes. They repeatedly try to up the price when Valjean comes to rescue the child.
  • In Nicholas Nickleby, Squeers takes in unwanted children for a high fee, and starves and mistreats his charges while using the money sent by their parents to pad his own pockets.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Count Olaf adopts the Baudelaire siblings to get access to their parents' money. Of course in his case, given the immense fortune that they will inherit once they become adults and his own greed, this is only the first before he escalates in the first book into actually trying to marry Violet so he can get access to it that way and into Inheritance Murder afterwards.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Subverted in the novella Edgedancer. Lift suspects that the Stump is using her orphanage as a money-laundering operation because she receives donations in Stormlight-infused currency but pays exclusively in (less valuable) non-infused money. Ultimately, she realizes that the Stump is an untrained Surgebinder who's been subconsciously draining the Stormlight to heal the children under her supervision.
  • Extended to an entire orphanage in The Supernaturalist. The Clarissa Frayne Institute for Paternally Challenged Boys volunteers its orphans as guinea pigs for brutal product testing to raise funds.
    • Thankfully, this particular variant is specifically prevented from becoming Truth in Television by special restrictions that apply to any research, clinical trials, or other studies that intend to enroll wards of the state as subjects. Such research can only enroll "vulnerable populations" such as wards of the state if they stand to benefit directly from the research.
  • Jennings' first foster home in They Cage the Animals at Night was with a couple who fostered because they needed money. He's returned within a matter of days because the husband can't stand seeing his wife beat and starve another foster kid.
  • In the book White Oleander, the main character ends up in one of these, with a woman who lives in an opulent house funded by the checks sent for the various girls she takes in, spending very little on the girls themselves, including putting a lock on the fridge when she isn't home (which is most of the time). The movie version left this out.
  • Journey to the River Sea has the Carters adopting Maia because Mr. Carter is a few steps removed for going to jail for debts and Maia's late parents' solicitor promised them to pay a monthly check for Maia's needs (that they use for their daughters as well). It's still not enough for them to avoid ruin at the end.
  • In "Captivity", part of Zenna Henderson's The People series, the Francher kid is put in a foster home after his mother dies, but Mrs. McVey, the woman who's supposed to be looking after him, spends a minimum on housing and feeding him, and keeps the rest of the fostering allowance for herself. It's noted that his status as an outsider in the community isn't helped by the fact that he goes to school in ratty old clothes because she won't buy new clothes for him. One of the teachers persuades Mrs. McVey to at least buy him a suitable outfit for a school outing to see an orchestra, which leads to dramatic consequences when it's discovered that she paid for the outfit by stealing Francher's own money (which he'd been saving up for a musical instrument) because she'd already spent the month's allowance money on clothes for herself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The French-Canadian series Les Bougons featured one of these, on a farm no less. The parents refer to the kids as numbers, and one of the kids notes that this kind of foster home ain't so bad since "Here you don't need to sleep with the old man for food at least."
  • Barney Miller: In third-season premiere "Evacuation", Fish arrests a girl in her early teens named Jilly Pappalardo for fencing stolen goods. It turns out that Jilly is an orphan who was living in a very shady foster home with three skeevy adults who were fostering for profit. When two of the three adults fostering the kids disappeared and the third died, the orphans, not wanting to go back to the Orphanage of Fear, resorted to a Body in a Breadbox, putting the dead guy on ice in a bathtub.
  • The episode "Children of the Dark" of Criminal Minds features a couple who does this. Doing simulated drownings on their kids to keep them in line, padlocking the fridge and having a ridiculous set of rules. Our two UnSubs of the week were raised in this house. One of them attempts to get one of the other kids who still live in the house to shoot the abusive foster mother, but the kid desists and shoots the staged "happy family" pictures, calling them all lies.
    • Mentioned by a victim in "Hostage". She describes her former foster mother (not the unsub) as being mean and constantly reminding the victim she wasn't worth the money. This was the reason the victim spent time away from home and wound up getting abducted by the unsub.
  • Shows up in a few Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes — the cops go to a suspect's (or a victim's) last known address and find out the person hasn't been there for months. The foster parent or caretaker hasn't reported them missing so they can still collect the checks.
    • One particularly unsavory instance occurred in "Raw", in which a black foster child was shot in what looked to be a racially-charged attack. The detectives later learn that the extremist group had been hired by the foster-parents so they could collect on the life insurance policy they'd taken out on the boy.
  • Once Upon a Time: Emma Swan had to put up with more than one of these, and hates the system as a result. She bitterly told Mary Margaret that Ava and Nicholas (Hansel and Gretel) were better off living as orphans in hiding than going to foster care.
  • Revenge: Experienced by Amanda Clarke at the hands of her physically abusive foster mother, Merideth Hayward, who pocketed donations for her own use while depriving children of food and water for days. Amanda and her foster brother Eli eventually get revenge on her as adults by congregating the mistreated children of Hayward House at a press conference (under the guise of giving her another donation) and revealing her on live television.

  • In The Mousetrap, it is mentioned that Posthumous Character Maureen Lyon and her husband had used their three foster children as essentially slave labour on their farm, with their ill-treatment resulting in the death of one of the children.

    Video Games 
  • In The Exorcism of Annabelle Sunray, this turns out to be the real motive of The Preacher- by intentionally traumatizing the orphans/patients under his care, thus making sure they never recover and rejoin society, he keeps the state flowing money to him.
  • A Little Lily Princess: Sara's maid Mariette was raised by a pair of innkeepers because her mother couldn't care for her. If Mariette's route is the one committed to in Act 2, it turns out that the innkeepers were doing such a thing for many children in a similar situation and were working them to the bone while pocketing the money sent by the parents for their upkeep. The "cousin" who got her hired to be Sara's maid in the first place is actually one of the other children from the inn.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in the third episode of The Cleveland Show. The foster parents lock the kids in the basement and see them as a source of income only. The kids are starved enough to resort to cannibalism. The parents also treat their operation the same way drug dealers would treat theirs: When a hearing could cost them a welfare check, they resort to shooting the parties involved to keep the kids (and associated cash).
  • Played for Black Comedy in Futurama's "The Cyber House Rules", in which Bender adopts a houseful of orphans for the government checks, but then realizes that the kids expect to be fed, which keeps him from making a profit. He ultimately tries to break even by attempting to sell the children to a slaughterhouse before he's caught.
  • Occurred in Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series with Buzz Blitzman, a Child Prodigy who was pretty much confined by the company he was in the custody of since he could come up with great tech ideas for them and they didn't want to "risk" him by letting him out into the dangers of the real world, causing him to run away. They wouldn't even let him go to hockey games when he wanted to, which was implied to be pretty much the one thing that would have kept him from running away in the first place. While initially a Bratty Half-Pint who drove the ducks nuts, once this side of him comes out his idol Mallory uses the events of the episode to help him get out more often.
  • Inverted on The Legend of Korra: Kai grew up in an orphanage until he was adopted by a nice family... whom he proceeded to rob blind before running away. Soon after he gets Airbending powers and is reluctantly taken in by Team Avatar, only for him to screw them over too. Fortunately, he gets his comeuppance and improves shortly thereafter.