Foster Care Clothing Allowances
My first time going shopping with clothing vouchers as a foster parent was intimidating. Many foster kids don’t have any clothing when they go into foster care, so they start from scratch. Ours wasn’t a normal emergency placement, so when the boys came, we went and got them a few outfits out of pocket until we could figure something out. After about a week we received some clothing vouchers of $240 for each kid to really get them some clothes. I’m glad my girlfriend is organized and patient because I felt overwhelmed. Starting from scratch is hard, especially when all had to be at one store. Not only were we thinking about what our foster kids need now, but also what they are going to need in the next several months. $240 isn’t really much if you factor in things like shoes and coats. Sure you’ll get a little assistance each month but as any parent knows, kids are not cheap, especially starting out with nothing.
How much do foster kids get in clothing allowances? Each child’s age bracket is allocated a certain amount for clothes each year and it varies for each state. It’s usually broken up into 2 payments, which makes it easier to shop for the upcoming season. There are two ways foster parents can handle foster care clothing allowances in my area:
- Some foster parents are given a voucher to a certain store, for example J.C. Penny or Wal-Mart. Usually with these you have to spend the full amount of the voucher at a time so bring a calculator. Its tax free and you want to make sure you get as close to the amount given as possible. If you don’t use it, you do lose it. Tell the clerk you’ll be using a voucher ahead of ringing up. Often times you need to go to a certain area, such as customer service, so they can fill out the voucher form/ Make sure you keep a copy of your receipt to mail to the caseworker. Foster parents using clothing vouchers don’t have to run around to different stores and you can get it done at one time. It also has drawbacks. It’s hard buying everything at one store, from underwear to coats, to shoes. It was hard spending $14 on 4 pairs of boxers knowing I could get double that for the same price at Wal-Mart. It was nice to get it done and out of the way within a few hours but I felt like I would have been able to stretch the dollar more if we would have had more options.
- Foster parents can also be given a check for the amount, and then can buy clothing wherever they want; keeping track of receipts to be mailed back to the case worker when the amount allocated is reached. This is the way I feel is most economical. Your given more of an option on what you want to pay for things and where so you can increase the amount of items you get for the money you’re spending. Our case worker told us that we could even buy clothing from garage sales as long as they will write a receipt for it.
Either way you do clothing allowances you have to stay organized to do it effectively. It’s overwhelming at times keeping track of what your kids have and what they need. It’s even harder if you have more then one kid to do this for. I recommend using a sheet like the one above to keep track of what your kids already have and what they will need. If they are old enough and you are able, involve your foster kids in picking out their clothing. Of course you need to set boundaries (clothing that’s appropriate), but there’s enough going on in a foster child’s life besides feeling uncomfortable about the clothes they’re in.