Everyone seems to be discussing the Washington Monthly article by Benjamin J. Dueholm, a Lutheran pastor, writer, and foster parent in Chicago. Entitled "Taxing the Kindness of Strangers," this essay talks openly about how frustrating and even humiliating it can be to try to get one's foster child's needs met by the system. Those of us who are foster parents, regardless of our political beliefs or class status, must use programs like Medicaid and WIC and public childcare subsidies to care for our foster children. This means we foster parents are necessarily dependent on social welfare programs such as WIC and Medicaid, and therefore dependent on the whims of an increasingly budget-cutting government and electorate. The article is also one of the first pieces I've ever read that discusses the financial reality of foster parenting in a public and honest way and shoots down the social misperception that "foster parents are doing it for the money."
Some choice quotes:
About the relationship between foster parents and the state:
When Scott Walker in Wisconsin sought to cut the workforce that administers foster care in his state, we went up to Madison to join the protests in solidarity, because we knew how helpless we would be if there were no caseworker on the other end of the phone to answer our own urgent pleas for help and guidance. And the threats have continued, as House Republicans repeatedly propose cutting trillions of dollars in domestic spending to reduce the debt while making room for sustained upper-income tax cuts. The way this hits home for us is simple. A foster parent joins hands with the state in order to take care of a dispossessed child. For the last year, the state has been trying to slip free of our grasp.About being a middle class person using programs like WIC for the first time:
We adjusted rather quickly to being treated like morons and petty thieves by bureaucrats. The social anxiety that comes with buying welfare food among our fellow citizens was worse. Middle-class people like to think of themselves as self-sufficient. But after a few months of shopping with WIC coupons, and contemplating my own sense of shame at this, I came to realize that we are rather selective in the forms of dependence we disdain. People who would not give a second thought to claiming the child care tax credit or the mortgage interest deduction will blanch at getting a bag of frozen peas on the public dollar. A WIC order grinds the line to a halt and prompts me to feel all kinds of self-consciousness about my deportment, my children, and the purchases I make with my own money. I got to know which cashiers were least given to suspicion or contempt, and I gratuitously mentioned Sophia’s foster status to defuse my own irritation. I don’t relish using the coupons, but they really help.
I must also mention that it breaks my heart that foster parents in an incredibly expensive city like Chicago get less than $400 a month of help from the state. This means that unless they take in several foster children, fostering is something that a loving and stable working or lower middle class family simply could not afford because of the amount of money that would come out of their own pocket due to the living expenses in an area like Chicago. Just the difference between rent on a 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom apartment (for example) is more than $400 a month, let alone food, clothing, baby equipment, and excess daycare costs not covered by the state.
Does this article hit home for those of you who are foster parents? Is it similar or different from your own experiences?