So we’re foster parents (duh). But a lot of people ask how we do it, like logistically, financially, mentally, etc. Well I won’t get into the logistics of what our schedules look like, because the answer to that is ‘crazy with a side of chaos’. And I would need to write a book to fully cover the mental contortions we have to do to love children yet let them go, and to write that book I would need a constant supply of good red wine to drown my sorrows, which would end up with me not writing a book.
The financial aspect I can, and have wanted, to explain about certain facets of it for a while. And I recently had an experience that allows me to share with you our philosophy of how we care for our foster children, and some of the ways we afford to be foster parents.
When we got into this whole thing Jacob and I committed to treating any foster child we got as we would a biological child. Meaning I’m that ‘Mom’ who would buy her kids all organic stuff, make her own baby food, and try to buy products that were ‘green’.
Now I have to stop here and tell you why. The hard truth of it is in any system, even foster care, there are people who do it for the wrong reasons. As foster parents you receive a monthly amount meant to help cover some costs associated with being a foster parent. The more kids you take, the more money you get. Some people do this to earn money, sad to say, but I have seen it.
So given that if I had my own biological child I wouldn’t be getting any extra money yet I would still scrimp pennies to buy organic, healthy, etc. And given that we are getting some financial help to be foster parents, I am even more committed to using that financial help to ensure our foster kids get the best in terms of healthy food and other things.
Is it easy? No. We had to go out and buy a twin mattress and box spring for the toddler. Did I buy top of the line? No, but I didn’t buy the cheapest thing out there nor did I buy a used mattress (which is just plain gross anyways).
In my commitment to buying healthy we chose to use glass bottles. Even though there are now ‘BPA-free’ plastic bottles I did not feel good about using them. And recently research has backed up my unease by showing that ‘BPA-free’ bottles, and all plastics, can still release estrogen-mimicking chemicals.
And here is where we ‘meet’ Wendy. We chose to go with Evenflo glass bottles from the start. They were great, sturdy, didn’t break the numerous times I dropped them, and even came with silicone sleeves to protect them from breakage.
The ring caps, that held the nipple in place, cracked and broke within a couple of months of using them. This meant we’d be feeding the baby one day and all of a sudden milk is leaking out all over her. Not cool. But I figured that products wear out, and I would just go buy some more replacement ring caps.
Except Evenflo doesn’t sell replacement ring caps. ANYWHERE. Not in stores, not online, not even on their own website. You have to buy a whole new set of bottles. But given that their glass bottles were so affordable it was cheaper for us to just buy new bottles than to switch to different bottle brand entirely.
So we did, every few months we bought some more bottles to replace the ring caps. Then we got our latest foster baby. And I lost it. All our ring caps were cracked or cracking and I was not going to buy one more frikin’ bottle just to get a tiny little ring.
I looked on Evenflo’s website again, still no ring caps for sale. NO WHERE on the ENTIRE inter-web could I find just the ring-caps to buy. And TRUST ME, I searched the heck out of the inter-web. I’m the person who found a movie, only sold in South Africa, and managed to import it as a gift for my bestie, via the inter-web.
So I sent Evenflo an email. They sent me an email back with a number to call them at. I called, and explained to Wendy, the random lady who had the misfortune of getting my call, the situation. Wendy offered to let me buy just the ring caps from them directly. “Great, what’s the cost?” I ask. About $9.50 for 9 new ring caps which included the shipping. Ok, not bad, I can do that. But then I asked, “Um, how much of this total is shipping?”
“$5 of it” says Wendy.
I sighed. I sighed a sigh of a tired, I have a 2 month old foster child, I haven’t slept more than 4 hours at a time, and have I mentioned we also have a 3-year-old foster child who doesn’t stop talking, EVER? I didn’t say any of this to Wendy, I just sighed and said
Wendy, I’m sorry. I just can’t let myself pay more than half the cost in shipping for a product I feel should last me more than a few months. Every ring cap we have gotten with your bottles has cracked within 6 months of having it. I think I’m just going to invest in a different brand of bottle.
I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t rude, I was just tired and explained to her my problems with the product. I expected Wendy to be annoyed that I had just wasted her time and to end the phone call. But she didn’t. She verified that I still had all the cracked ring caps and then told me she had just authorized and ordered me new ring caps at no cost and no shipping if I would just send back the broken ones, which they would also pay for that shipping. I received them 4 days later.
It is people like Wendy, and businesses like that who care for the customer, that have helped us financially afford to give our foster kids the best without breaking the bank.
I thought I would list the companies and practices we have found most useful as foster parents. They are practices for any/all types of parents.
1) Borrow, barter, or search for free or inexpensive toys and clothes. Most of our clothes and toys come from friends whose kids have outgrown them.
2) Sign up for http://www.Amazon.com’s ‘Amazon Mom‘ program. It is free and you get 3-months of free 2nd-day shipping. Plus when you use their subscribe-feature to get automatic shipments of products you use all the time, you save 30%!! Like diapers, wipes, etc. Stuff I always need, cheap and at my house in two days. It let’s me buy ‘green’ disposable diapers cheaper than even walmart-brand diapers (which suck). Plus when you spend $25 each month you get an extra month of free 2-day shipping added on. I enrolled when we got our first foster child and my free 2-day shipping is still going. It does take some planning and you do have to buy in bulk, like 4 packages of diapers come in a case. But it is well worth it. And if you ‘subscribe’ to something you can cancel at anytime.
3) Check out the following bargain sites that are committed to healthy, green, environmentally friendly, high-end baby products:
http://www.mamabargains.com (One deal, 40-80% off, until it sells out and a new deal is posted.)
http://www.ecobabybuys.com (Same thing, more ‘green’ oriented. Only one deal a day but you can see past deals and buy them if they are still available.)
http://www.babyhalfoff.com (One deal a day always 50% off or more.)
http://www.babysteals.com (Two deals a day up to 80% off.)
http://www.kidsteals.com (One deal a day 50-80% off.)
So that is part of how we do it. With the help of great friends, and the amazing websites mentioned above we are able to provide our foster kids with the quality of products we want them to have.
We still have to budget and be careful with our money, but these companies help us do it. And Wendy, oh Wendy, thank you. For hearing the tired sigh of a foster Mom in need of someone to just listen to her and lift a burden from her shoulders. Evenflo should give you raise, and a party, with cake. And then invite me to the party, because I love cake.