Friday, January 25, 2013

A radom post about money

I've seen a couple posts recently from folks discussing how they handle their foster parenting per diems. I figured since there isn't too much going on in my life worth reporting on right now, I'd take an opportunity to share how we do things in our house.

First, it's important to note that we are being reimbursed for our expenses after the fact. I know not every state/county/agency does things the same way, so what I'm describing is how it works for us specifically. We don't get any money up front for anything. We had to be able to prove during the licensing process that we are financially able to provide for all of our children prior to any reimbursement.

When the kids are placed with us initially we can save receipts and turn them in to be reimbursed for up to $100 in clothing. This only applies if the children are just entering foster care and is a one time offer. If the kids are being moved from another foster family, there is no clothing allowance.

Once a month we receive a per diem. Since it's public knowledge (available on the Texas DFPS website) I will share that we receive $22.15 per day per (basic) child. The monthly check is sizable in my opinion. And now that the cherubs have been with us for so long we don't have as many big purchases to make. But we're certainly not "making money". We are reimbursed for our time, effort and expenses to raise these children.

Of course all medical expenses are covered by the State at 100%. I know I've said it before but it's worth saying not give out your social security number when filling out medical paperwork for your foster kids. Be careful what you sign. I refuse to sign the section of paperwork stating that I would be responsible should the children's primary insurance (Medicaid) not cover something.

But then we go about the business of living life. As a foster family there are extra expenses for food, water, electricity, and of course the all important gas (and wear and tear on your vehicle) as you transport to the million and one appointments. I'm running the dishwasher at least one extra time per day than I did before. I've got more laundry to do. There are also the extra meals out (or at least brought home) because schedules are a mess due to visits, social workers and other foster care appointments.

I also make it a priority to have "experiences" with the cherubs that without the per diem money we might not be able to afford. It costs a LOT to take a family of seven just about anywhere. But I want to make sure that my cherubs get to experience as much as they possibly can during their time with us. Who knows if they will ever get to have any of these experiences again if they return to their family of origin?! We've gone to the beach, the zoo, Sea World, the aquarium, Iowa, and so many more places.

The other day, while in the shower though, I was thinking about money...and foster parenting...and the things I've purchased just for my bonus cherubs.
See this head of hair? When it's not all up and pretty like this, it reaches down to Dolly's knees. I thought I was doing a good job of washing and rinsing it. I used a ton of water and had her hold her head under the faucet to rinse with clean water. Still, getting all the tangles out was a huge process. Then we went to my parents' house at Christmas and I was able to rinse her hair with one of those shower heads hooked to a hose as opposed to the wall directly. It made an incredible difference!! Her hair had never been so clean.
When we got back from Christmas vacation (and after court of course) I decided it was time to add a fancy-smacy shower head like that for me at home. I personally didn't need one but I knew it would make things better for Dolly.

That meant I had to remove the shower caddy that used to hang below my shower head. The hose on my new shower head got in the way. Still, I needed a place to put shampoo, soap and other shower necessities.
So I rigged up this contraption.

All this for Dolly's hair.

That got me thinking about other things around the house purchased just so we can be a foster family.

We have to have Class K fire extinguisher in our home. Ever priced one of those out? I was able to buy a refurbished one from a local fire safety retailer but it still set me back almost $200. Every two years I get to pay for a home fire inspection. I also get to pay to have all the extinguishers in my home inspected and tagged.

We have several of these lock boxes around the house. They are nearly $50 apiece. I have two for cleaning supplies and one for medicine.

Gotta keep the beer under lock and key too. I'll admit it though, my vodka doesn't always make it back to the locked fridge in the garage. I often just hide it in a cupboard in the kitchen. Shhhhh....don't tell.

Then there is this baby...all because I was told at our last re-licensing inspection that we had to lock up our pitch fork. $600 later (plus some extra fees because Mr. Amazing ended up needing some help with installation) we are now able to lock up our pitch fork. No, our bonus cherubs were never allowed in the garage before. And yes, the pitch fork was hanging neatly from hooks on the wall. Everything was perfectly safe. But now...we are oh so much safer because it is under lock and key. (be sure to read that with plenty of sarcasm!) We could have gone with a smaller cabinet so technically it wouldn't have to have cost quite as much as it did. But I also had to find room for a couple cans of house paint that also had to be locked up. It made more sense to buy a bigger shed than a small wall unit simply so we could organize our garage better overall. (And it wasn't possible to keep the garage locked all the time because of our bigger kids, their toys, and the extra fridge where I keep the milk. So a shed it had to be.)

Last on the list I could think of off the top of my head, but not least, there are all the shelving units I've had to buy to house all our bonus cherubs' toys. My cherubs want for nothing! And in order to keep "their" toys separate from "our" toys, I've had to get several different sets of shelves. The longer they've been here, the more they've accumulated. Of course some of their toys can stay in a communal area. But since we have blocks (for example) and they have blocks...things need to be kept separate so that when (if) the cherubs leave our house we will be able to find their toys.

I have another trip to Lowe's planned for this weekend because I still don't have enough storage for all the toys the cherubs got for Christmas. They have a pile of them in their closet (below) because I honestly thought they were going to be leaving me and I didn't even open up everything they received. (Side note: do you ever cull out your foster kid's toys? I mean...if these were my forever kids I would tell them that they need to get rid of some of their toys. Dolly doesn't need or play with 43 different doll babies. Dude doesn't need 8 different giant trucks. ...things like that... Or do I keep everything and send it all with them should they ever leave?) I hope you can cherubs want for nothing. They have giant wardrobes. They have tons of toys. They get to do lots of cool things. And due to all the rules and regulations, their home is quite safe. I don't separate out the per diem money that we receive monthly and make sure that it all goes "just" to the children. I don't know how I could do that exactly (emphasis on "I"...others budget money much differently/better than I do). Instead, I live my life and I provide everything the cherubs need and then some. If my dishwasher isn't completely full, but I know that my life will be easier (and me a better parent as a result) if I just run it...I run the dishwasher. If I have to screw up my schedule because of a social worker and we end up getting take out...I don't worry about it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...the per diem money is a reimbursement and I don't dwell on it. It's just added in to our general budget. I take care of the kids. I pay the bills. And we just keep on keepin' on. I'd love to hear how others do it though if you're so inclined to comment.


Anonymous said...

It' such a different world out here. While I never planned to (I didn't plan of having this many kids!) I'm taking a break from study and work and we are living off the per diem and parenting payments that the government provides(about half is per diem, and half because I'm a stay at home single mum). I can do this very comfortably. I also don't have to lock anything up. Or go to any appointments. Or really have anything to do with anyone except visits. No one from cs has come to my house once since the kids came. Essentially they just give you the money and kids and ignore you. It's ridiculous. And tragic how much it ends up being abused. But for me I will be grateful that I am able to use the provisions to give my full attention to raising my kids while they are so little. And so grateful that I don't have to do all the insane things they ask of you!

Mitzy said...

I too just replaced my shower head for similar reasons.

I love your library like book shelf, where did you find that?

I'm experimenting with having a separate checking account for Primo's per diem. This is more to satisfy my own curiosity as to how I use this money than anything else. Other than that it sounds like we handle our per diem very similarly, lots of toys, clothing and fun experiences for our kids!

We get a check for $150, for a new to foster care placement, to buy clothes and then we send in our receipts to the agency. We also have no medical expenses. We do receive 45 cents a mile for travel to medical appointments and visits.

G said...

We're very similar to the way it sounds like you handle it, although our area is not as strict about locking stuff up. (They're OK with there being a child lock on the cabinet that has my cleaning supplies in it, for example.)

We get the per diem every month and it goes in the general spending fund. (Our per diem for 1 preschooler is about $14.) We get reimbursed (with receipts) for clothing up to an amount that varies from county to county. There's an "initial" allowance that's like yours -- only available if they come straight to you when taken into care and must be spend in that calendar year. Then, there's usually an "annual" allowance to cover growth spurts, but you can't spend the annual allowance in the same year that you spend the initial one. Oh, and the "annual" year is the counties fiscal year, not the calendar year, so each county had a different date when the "year" starts over.

Some counties cover other "incidentals" (school supplies, haircuts, field trip fees, etc) and some don't. The ones that do have the rate set so low it wouldn't cover the cost, but I figure every little bit helps. ($50 for school supplies sounds like a lot, but once you buy a backpack....) Those all require receipts as well and are reimbursements after the fact.

Like you, I figure that the per diem covers some of the incidental costs of feeding and housing these kids...but not all of it and we're OK with covering the difference. On the other hand, I don't think we really could do this without the per diem -- we skate pretty close to the edge of our income/expense line most months which makes us nervous (we're not going into debt or anything, but we'd be more comfortable putting some money in savings every month instead of just breaking even or drawing from savings most of the time).

CherubMamma said...

@Mitzy - I got the library book shelf off of Craigslist super cheap. You can find new ones from Discount School Supply (and other school supply sources) but they are rather expensive. I'm actually getting ready to donate it to our licensing agency (if they want it). It takes up a lot of room and my little cherubs are very familiar with books now and use traditional shelves just fine.

At our house we have over 500 picture books for my forever cherubs alone. Dude and Dolly are up to over 50 books that will stay with them no matter what. We have A LOT of books and love to read!! I liked having this particular shelf to sort out different topics. I would pull out all the fire truck books, or all the Valentine's Day themed ones. But now, I'm ready to start paring down some of the excess.

I'll be honest too...with Dude and Dolly likely leaving in May, I want to have my house ready for the transition. It will be easier having some things that they no longer use or need gone BEFORE they leave so that it's not as traumatic for me to handle it all after they are gone.

Mitzy said...

Thanks for the info about the book shelf.

I forgot to let you know that, yes I do cull Primo's toys every now and then. He has been with us since he was month old, therefore there are many toys he now has NO interest in, and there would be no point in sending him home with them. I keep all the toys he no longer uses for the future little ones we may have.

Carrie said...

Most of our per diem goes to household expenses. I do try to save out some each month for bigger things to come down the road. Your per diem is quite a bit higher where you are, but it should be for all the hoops they make you jump through! I think as far as toys go, it would depend on the situation. When our first kiddos left, I asked their grandmother if she wanted everything to go with them and she said that wasn't necessary. We also foster babies, so as Mitzy said, I wouldn't send the things that are much too young for them unless they were gifts from bio family.

CherubMamma said...

I'm glad to hear that others cull out toys too. My husband seems to think it would be wrong to get rid of any of their toys. Me...not so much.

Honestly, I don't exactly where all the toys came from. The county and our agency is quite generous at Christmas time so they received A LOT of toys the last two years. And some of them I won't even take out of the boxes still. But Dolly has received THREE Baby Alive dolls. I think it's safe for me to donate the third one (that is still in the box) no matter where it came from.

orphanmother said...

Our family puts the per diam into the same pot. Gas for the extra running for appointments and visits and the drive thru on those days either for a treat or dinner takes up a lot of our money. That can be a cup of coffee for me while I have to wait an hour for the visit to be over (that is after driving the half an hour there). And for those of us that work outside the home, we have to pay a balance of the day care bill. That also can be a big expense, which I found varies from day care to day care. During the summer months we take the kids to a pool and to the lake and the extra safety items adds up to more expenses too. Like life jackets, swim accessories, sun screen, and bathing suits. And all the fun items for the sand and water. And the snack foods in the individual containers for the cooler that I don't usually spend money on. So yes, the money goes quick.

shellyx6 said...

I do the same, put it all in one account. I live in AZ, we get $75 for emergency clothing allowance but it takes over 30 days to arrive. I can't imagine having a teen to clothe (having clothed 4 of my own already), it adds up. Babies add up too. Diapers, car seats, baby equipment - it gets $$$. I saved a lot of my baby equipment but I've still had to go out and purchase more.

Funny, my bio daughter has hair very much like Dolly - I struggle with the tangles too. I also have that same bookshelf ;)

I hear far too often that we "do it for the money". I have yet to "make" any money on this gig.

shellyx6 said...

I need to correct myself, we receive $150 for emergency clothing but only receive $75 for the first 6 months, then the additional $75. I don't have to submit receipts though, no one has ever asked.

CherubMamma said...

@Shelly - I highly recommend the shower head. I also switched to TRESemme shampoo and conditioner (I use one for climate control). If I take the time to make sure everything is rinsed out really well, Dolly will have almost no tangles! It has made such a huge difference.

I'd give anything to be able to cut her hair - or at least give it a trim. But Bio Mom has definitely said NO to that. So I'm thrilled that the shower head has made that much of a difference.