ST. CHARLES, Missouri -

It is estimated it will cost $235,000 st to raise a child born in 2012.  Now, if the child experienced abuse and neglect at a young age, the cost goes up.  That's just one reason foster families are struggling themselves to make ends meet.

That's why Vicki Houska is on a mission in St. Charles, Missouri.  She started a free pantry on Saturdays for foster families inside her home three years ago.  But when the demand outgrew the space, her team moved to a bigger place.  Donors pay the bills, grocers donate the goods and volunteers supply the love.

Vicki and her husband have five boys, three who came through foster care.  She says the real cost of child rearing is much more than what some foster parents are paid by the state.

“It’s 7 to 10 dollars a day you could not find a babysitter or daycare to babysit a ‘regular’ child for that price,” said Vicki.

Foster care reimbursement rates in Missouri, where Vicki lives, are among the lowest in the country.  One study found to adequately cover the cost of care, base payments in 28 states would have to be raised at least 50 percent.  Some states would need to more than double their current base rates.

“They think most the parents that foster do it for the money we do it for the kids," said Vicki.

Dani and Scott James are foster parents.  They have fostered more than 40 kids.  They currently have seven children, all under the age of 12.

“There’s just so many children out there that are hurting and they need help and you know it’s not, it’s not their fault that they’re in care,” said Dani James.

Juvenile Judge Dan Pelikan hears about their painful pasts in court.  He says Saturday give them all something to look forward to.

The Foster Adoption Support Team, or FAST, serves up to 800 families a month.  Grants and places like United Way help provide the food and equipment.  The pantry also offers clothes, bedding and free training courses for the foster parents.

Check foster care rates by state