Four years ago, we had our first foster placement arrive – with about two hours’ notice and as much information as the caseworker had (information, BTW, that ultimately ended up being mostly inaccurate …).The sweet little ten-month-old boy showed up at 10 p.m. with the clothes on his back, a dirty diaper, and a sippy cup with day old juice in it. Unfortunately, this scenario is not unique in foster care, and unless you have unlimited funds or space for storage, it really makes planning ahead nearly impossible.
Fortunately, I have learned so much since that night about how foster families can cope with urgent needs. In addition to the monthly stipend foster parents receive (read more on that here), foster families have more ways to save money than they might realize. And I’ve learned that there are so many people and organizations that really want to help; it’s really just a matter of trying to find them.
Below are just a few tips I have to offer:
- First and foremost, you should reach out to your county caseworker. Many states and counties already have funds set aside that are designated for situations like my emergency placement mentioned above. One county I worked with gave me a $150 gift card that could be used at specific stores in our area, so long as it was used within a set time period. Sometimes they have diapers or formula or clothes that have been donated, too.
- I would also ask your KidsPeace caseworker if they had any emergency funds or donations they could offer. Many times, your local office will have gift cards or donated money set aside from their local Board of Associates or other supporters to help with expenses. They may have some donated items to offer as well; one time we were gifted with a bag with some basics for the night from the organization, “Together We Rise” (www.togetherwerise.org).
- Local non-profits are wonderful resources. The Fiaria Project (www.fiaria.org), The Kindness Project ( www.kindnessprojectlv.org) and Fostering Hope (www.fosteringhopepa.com) are just some examples of foster care nonprofits in my area that offer clothing, toys, toiletries, car seats, back to school supplies, or other essentials for free to any foster family in the area. I suggest searching for local organizations or churches in your area that might offer services like this prior to a placement, so you know who to call when you need to.
- Government/state assistance also provides helpful resources for discounts that range from formula and food to family fun, like museums or zoos. If you live in Pennsylvania, your county caseworker can help you sign up for the WIC program, which provides nutrition services for any child in your care who is under the age of five (www.pawic.com). Also in Pennsylvania, any child receiving Medical Assistance also qualifies for an Access Card, which offers discounts or free access to museums, family friendly state attractions, and even Amazon Prime!
Ultimately, the world of foster parenting is most successful when we lean on the village around us. Admittedly, my list above is likely not complete – so if you have other great tips on reducing the financial stress a growing family brings, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!!!
Megan Craig is a foster parent in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Make a donation today to help foster families with urgent needs, contact the KidsPeace Foster Care office near you. LOCATIONS