Note: If you can only read a short line of this post, I want you to know that there is ONLY ONE PLACE in in all of NYC for foster parents to participate in the ACS clothing voucher and it’s off the Morrison Ave Station (6 train) in the Bronx.  Don’t know where that’s at?  Neither did I. It was a 6 hour commute total (minus baby and stroller).

I found it nearly impossible to get information about the initial foster care placement clothing voucher.  I’ve googled “foster care clothing voucher”, “foster care clothing allowance”, “ACS voucher”, etc.  Nothing.  Yet another mystery.

In foster parenting class, we learned that the clothing voucher was  for $300.   I’m not sure why, but I was under the impression that all I needed to do was save my receipts and I’d be reimbursed…The hassle that goes into being granted a clothing voucher was enough to thwart me from pursuing it for Snap and Eaglet.  This time around I’m trying to take advantage of all of the support available so that I don’t continue to deplete my savings account with each kid.

It took almost two weeks of talking to various staff members at my agency until I got a call from a woman who identified herself from “Kidstuff”.  I assumed this was just another non-profit agency.  I was curtly told to rush up to 1588 Westchester Ave between 9 to 5.  When I asked about “hours for working parents” (another catch-phrase I’ve learned that puts the squeeze on and gets me places) the woman on the phone snorted that I could come between 9am-10am on Saturday morning but she’d prefer that I didn’t.

Turns out, “Kidstuff” is a mom-and-pop clothing store with overpriced, poorly constructed, cigarette-smelling, polyester, flammable children’s clothing.  It makes Rainbow look like Saks Fifth Avenue.  I wouldn’t mind had it not been for my 3 hour commute that went from the G train in Brooklyn, to the F, up and out at Broadway to the 6 (sorry to bore the non-new yorkers), a transfer to the 4/5 at Union Square and then a transfer back to the 6 at 125th only to discover that I’m on an EXPRESS 6.  Did you know there was an express 6 train!?  Yeah, me neither.  Back track down the 6 to Morrison Ave.

Once I arrived, I learned that the deal is you show I.D. and then you’re given a personal shopper of sorts who ‘assists’ you in selecting appropriate clothing.  My personal shopper was less than friendly.  She gave me a once over and then told me to select something from “this rack”.  She later revealed that the options are limited to the clothes they have difficulty selling (e.g. 24 months vs. 2T sizes).  I wasn’t given 2 seconds before she started handing me clothes saying “what’s wrong with this?”.  My overall attitude was ‘anything is great’ but after accumulating 20 outfits that I would never dress her in, I asked,

"Do you have anything without words on it?"

Silence.  I almost said “without words or logos” but fortunately I didn’t because that would have been asking too much.  The whole process made me feel like a yuppie bitch.  I had to keep telling myself it’s not bad to be a yuppie foster parent.

All this to say, I WANTED to like the clothes at the store.  Actually, what I probably mean is that I wanted the people working at the store to like me and not see me as the outsider I really am at this stage in my life.  But now I’m getting off topic.

The personal shopper’s main job was to make sure I didn’t try to select anything for myself or my ‘real’ kids as I was told.  This sounds like an anti-corruption procedure I would have put into place myself, but being on the receiving end, the supervision was pretty degrading.

When I made it to the finish line, the cashier informed me that I chose A LOT of socks.  Yeah…

So, how do I wish it was done?

1. I would have liked to have been fully informed of how the process works.

2.  More flexible hours.  The store is open at regular times but I was told that they were too busy during evenings and weekends to monitor the foster parents.  The schedule should be tailored to foster parents and their children’s appointment schedules, not a for-profit business’ convenience.

3.  Give foster parents the option of receiving a pre-selected package of clothing delivered at the agency versus ‘shopping’ at Kidstuff.  Or, even better- an online option.

4.  And ideally, more store options- at least one per borough.  While flannel pajamas were $16.99 at Kidstuff, they’re only $7.00 at Old Navy.  I’m sure Kmart or Walmart would have better deals as well.

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