Life Before, During And After Foster Care


I was a foster kid and now a kinship parent. My life before, during, & after foster care taught me a lot. Here's insight into the lives of the foster kids and foster parents of foster care.

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.

6 comments:

  1. Our area does it a 3rd way. We buy the clothes wherever and whenever we want, then submit the original receipts to be reimbursed. More like your second option, but we aren't given the money upfront. (I suspect this is to ensure that we really do spend it on clothing for the kids.)

    Although it can be tough on cash flow to be out-of-pocket the money for a month or two, I do like the flexibility. I can buy things at consignment sales and on clearance. I usually spend about half the allotted allowance on "current season" stuff and try to save the rest until the next season approaches to make sure I haven't bought things that get outgrown before they get worn. (But I foster mostly preschoolers--not as big a concern with older kids.)

    Our kids get an "initial" allowance that is usually the same as the annual one, which is supposed to cover them for the rest of the year that they come into care. (Either the calendar year or the fiscal year, because our fiscal year starts in the middle of the summer.) THen the yearly allowance is available with the next "year" starts and is good until the end of that fiscal year. This means that kids who come into care in the fall get their initial allowance to last through the end of December, then a new one in January to last through that summer, then a new one again that summer to last 12 months. That really helps with the "starting from scratch."

    I agree with you that it would be much harder to have to do it all at once and in one place.

    Also agree on the involving the kids. It doesn't do anyone any good to buy a child clothing that he or she doesn't want to wear. One of my favorite shopping moments with a foster daughter (age 8 at the time) was when I told her what our "budget" was and we calculated how much we were spending as we picked out things she was excited to wear. She was so proud when we had everything she wanted/needed that we had come in under budget!

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    1. thanks for stopping by and sharing! That was a great way you invloved your foster daughter in the shopping experience. Not only did she get stuff she will feel good in she is learning valuable money skills in the future. Thanks for your work!

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  2. Wow, I cannot believe you get $240 per kid. We get much less and can only go to one store for Emergency placement. Then we get a very small monthly clothing allowance per child. We definitely spend way more on clothes than we get reimbursed for but these are my kids and they need to look and feel good in what they wear.

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    1. I'm sorry they don't help you guys out more. I know I didn't think the $240 went very far especially shopping at just one store so I couldn't imagine have less. Thank you for spending that extra money to make sure your kids are feeling comfortable with themselves

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  3. great website

    keep up the good work

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  4. We get a quarterly check for $100. To my knowledge there is no accountability. We do not have to turn in receipts. While I like the flexibility and lack of paperwork and I use the money for our foster son, it worries me that there is no accountability. What if other foster parents aren't as honest with the money?

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