My foster daughter is the cutest socialist you will ever meet. I know that there are people in this country who are afraid of socialism, or think that it’s not their responsibility to take care of anyone else, but Dafna is here to show you why socialism can be awesome.
Let’s be real: On the whole, being a kid in the foster system is terrible. You enter the system because of abuse and neglect. Children often get shuffled through many different placements, may or may not get to see and bond with their biological parents, and are the pawns of a bureaucratic system that is undoubtedly broken. But alongside the bureaucracy there are some amazing perks. These perks are different state to state, but here’s an example of some of the awesome socialism we use every day.
1. Free Childcare
I got a full-time job offer the same day that Dafna entered our home (seriously, it was a crazy day) so we were definitely going to need childcare. Luckily, foster kids in Pennsylvania (I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but I believe this is generally the case) qualify for CCIS, which is a subsidized childcare program. The week after Dafna arrived we called around to some of the childcare locations that were on the list we got from CCIS. Dafna got the last spot at a brand new facility near our home that has the motto, “Earth tones, not Disney.”
She started in daycare at 7 weeks, and is there for a full day five days a week. It took a couple of months for the paperwork to go through, and for those months we were paying for daycare out of pocket. Now that our claim as been approved we pay a whopping $5/week and we’re going to be reimbursed for the weeks we paid for ourselves.
This allows both of us to work full time, which is what our family needs financially. We also get to feel at ease every day knowing that Dafna is in the care of an excellent group of caregivers, and spending time with other infants her age. (Bonus: When we pick her up every day we get to hear about how she’s their favorite baby. It’s possible they tell this to all the parents but I’m still going to enjoy it.)
2. Free Formula
Since I didn’t give birth to Dafna, and didn’t have any notice that she was going to come to our home. I obviously couldn’t breastfeed her. This is an especially big bummer because formula is SO expensive. But one of the first things we got after Dafna arrived was a letter stating that she qualifies for WIC (Women, Infants and Children), a federal program that provides healthcare, nutrition, and food for low income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, infants, and children under 5. WIC pays for all of Dafna’s formula every month. If I bought the same formula on Diapers.com it would cost me $162/month. (If I were breastfeeding, WIC would give me money to buy nutritious food for myself.) And when Dafna’s ready to eat solid food we’ll start to get WIC money that we can use at farmers markets and grocery stores to buy her healthy fruits and vegetables. Hooray!
3. Free Medical Care
Dafna gets Medicaid. She has an excellent doctor at a wonderful local practice. We’ve seen him three times, and Dafna has received two sets of immunizations. No one ever sent us a bill, and we’ve never been asked to pay a dime. When she needed a prescription recently, it was free.
Now, all this stuff isn’t technically free. No one is donating their services–it’s all being paid for by American taxpayers (like me, for instance). But you know what? I am thrilled to have my tax dollars go towards Dafna’s care and the care of other kids like her.
Generally speaking, Dafna qualifies because her parents are not currently contributing financially to her care. Even if she was not in foster care, she might still qualify for all of these programs. This, my friends, is the social safety net. It’s what keeps kids like Dafna–foster kids, but also kids whose parents make little or no money–alive. And it’s awesome.
I wish that we extended these services to all kids, not just the ones who are in foster care or whose families are able to complete the rigorous circuitous paperwork required to sign up for any of these programs. Because I think every family would do better if they didn’t have to do the complex and depressing calculus of figuring out if they can afford childcare or if a parent should just quit their job. And I think that all kids deserve good healthy food, even if their parents don’t make enough money to buy it (especially then). And I think that everyone (infants, tantruming toddlers, tweens, sulking adolescents, 20-somethings, soccer moms, weird loners, convicted felons, overbearing grandmas who give you unsolicited advice in the grocery store–seriously EVERYONE) should get free medical care. No one should face bankruptcy because they needed an emergency appendectomy, or because they got hit by a car, or because their child has asthma, or for any medical reason at all. It benefits everyone if we’re all healthy. If we live in a world where people can’t afford to take their sick kids to the doctor, then we’re doing it wrong.
I’m a realist. I know that this socialism is probably never going to extend beyond the cripplingly poor because we live in a country where people think they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But here’s the thing: Dafna doesn’t have any bootstraps. She doesn’t even wear shoes yet.
I am so glad that there’s a system out there that supports us as we care for Dafna. It has made a huge difference in our ability to survive–financially, and psychologically–these crazy first months with a baby. And I want every family to have that support.
One day, I hope the socialist babies take over.