I Refuse to be Motivated by Pity.

At one of my children’s latest 4-H meetings, they (the kids) voted to do a service project called the “Carry On Suitcase Project”. This program collects new and gently used suitcases, packed with age- and gender-appropriate personal hygiene items, books and toys, and distributes them to domestic abuse shelters and foster care agencies.

To paraphrase the comments about this program by one of the adult leaders of the club, ‘this is so important because these kids in foster care have nothing to carry their belongings in when they go from one place to another; most of the time their stuff is packed in garbage bags – once a child arrived at a new foster home and untied the garbage bag, and it was the garbage! They had put the wrong bag in the car when he was picked up.’

I’m sorry, but this is a blatant, bald-faced lie. Not saying that no child ever had to take his possessions from one foster home to another in a garbage bag, and not saying that a foster child’s belongings never got confused with the household trash, but it is completely unnecessary for the general public to have to dig deep and provide these kids with suitcases, personal hygiene items and toys.

Oh! You say. What a completely heartless and uncaring person MommyMagpie must be, to make these poor foster children schlep their stuff around in bags when lots of people have duffels and overnight bags lying around unused!

Nope, not heartless and uncaring. Just realistic.

According to the Foster Care manual (see section 4 at the link; it’s a Word document) for my state, the current ‘boarding care’ rate per child, per month, is $600. Yes, you read that correctly, SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS. This is meant to cover the child’s room and board. I’d take this to be a proportional amount of the rent/mortgage and utilities for the home. It’s also supposed to include “an amount for the childs personal allowance, personal necessities, school supplies, routine transportation, recreational expenses, etc. “ Foster parents are reimbursed for transporting the child to and from visits with the biological parents separately. They also may apply for reimbursement for transportation to and from medical appointments. (see link above, pages 31 and 32 of section 4).

So – let’s see…….imagine I am a foster parent and I have a foster child. I have three children of my own, so the foster child’s share of household expenses would be 1/5 of my total for mortgage and utilities (I’m including cable tv, internet access and telephone in the following figure), which would be: $155.40. Add another $200 for food. There’s $244.60 left EACH MONTH for personal allowance (between $25 – $50 per month depending on the child’s age), clothing and other things as specified in the quote above.

I looked online and found a complete 5-piece brand-name luggage set available at Wal-Mart for less than $80.

You mean to tell me that a foster parent can’t take the children in their care to Wal-Mart or another big-box discount store and get them an entire set of luggage to carry their stuff around in? We have to go begging for it?

Gimme a break.

(And the domestic abuse shelters most likely don’t need this stuff either. They get grant money according to the capacity of the shelter, and I’d venture a guess that they get a surplus amount.)