If you haven't noticed, but could probably imagine, being in foster care means your probably not dressed in the named brand "popular" clothing. Not that there's anything wrong with clothes that aren't name brand but my point is there's not much of a selection in clothing being a foster kid. That and you know how kids are in school. Not dressing like most of the kids and being in foster care on top of it makes you feel uncomfortable at times.
Growing up my family was never really materialistic. My mom loved to shop (now that I'm older I realize that's true of a lot of women), but we didn't have to have top of the line. We had what we could afford and maybe a little more but we weren't trying to keep up with the Jones' and perfectly content. After my mom passed away and my step mom came into the picture that kind of thinking really changed around my household. Nice things were built up and we became a very materialistic family. Eventually not wearing popular clothing was being used as punishment. I was told that I was going to be mad fun of and I was. They would pick out the stuff that they knew would get the kids making fun of me at school.
When placed into foster care I was still in this frame of mind. We didn't bring much into foster care with us just mostly the clothes on our backs. My parents did bring a suitcase with some clothing for me and my brothers a little later. We need to have some extra clothing and our emergency placement was given a voucher to get us some things to start us off in foster care. As you can imagine that stuff got wore out quick and I needed to get new clothes. So how do you get clothing in foster care?
There are 2 main ways to get clothes in foster care when you don't have a job or too young to work. Donations and clothing vouchers. It varies from state to state on how their clothing voucher system works. Basically that state gives foster parents a clothing voucher worth x amount that can only be used a certain stores. The amount depends on the state and often how the child is. I've heard of foster families getting from $150 to $750 a year for clothing. Sometimes the vouchers are issued and in other places foster parents are allowed to bring in receipts. I personally remember getting around $350 to $450 allocated to clothing a year.
Now to begin with $450 is not a whole lot of money when you're talking about dressing a 15 year old boy for a year. If you think about everything needed; underwear, socks, shoes, pants, shirts, coats etc. The price tag really adds up. This can even be more troubling when you're going through a growth spurt. Many times you have to spend the vouchers all at one time and places like Wal-Mart, K-mart, and target. Often times its not enough and donations are needed.
I was lucky and my foster parents were able to turn in receipts making shopping a little more flexible. They also took the time to help me shop smart. We didn't have to spend it all at one time and make sure we got everything. I also was allowed to shop at J.C. Penny and get more quality clothes. I learned to shop pretty thrifty and stretch a dollar. I was able to get just as much if not maybe more really shopping the sale racks. I found that the clothes I got there also lasted longer if you make sure to take care of them.
Even though it was tough I learned many lessons. First its not about name brands but quality. I also found that by searching you can get the quality clothing for just as much and sometime less. I learned how to shop smart which carried over to other areas of my life as far as budgeting and managing my money. What have your experiences been with clothing in foster care?