Shouldn’t foster kids also have to eat from garbage cans?

Guess what? Michigan is making national headlines again for its innovative Republican solutions to the problems that confront us… This time it’s State Senator Bruce Casswell getting the attention for his exciting “out of the box” thinking. Casswell, if you haven’t heard, is suggesting that foster kids in Michigan only be allowed to purchase secondhand clothes. Here’s a clip from Michigan Public Radio:

Foster children in Michigan would use their state-funded clothing allowance only in thrift stores under a plan suggested by State Senator Bruce Caswell.

Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor is actually used for that purpose.

He says they should get “gift cards” to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.

“I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes.”

I don’t know Casswell, a Republican who represents Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee and St. Joseph counties, and I certainly don’t have a problem with purchasing clothes at thrift stores, but this seems to me to be punitive to the extreme. It’s bad enough that clothing allowances for foster kids haven’t been increased in Michigan for the better part of a decade – now they want to step in and tell those frivolous foster parents that they can’t exercise their own judgement as to where they buy underwear and shirts for the kids in their care. Casswell may have good intentions in mind – certainly one can stretch a dollar a lot farther at a thrift store than at Macy’s – but it’s hard not to read this and sense an appalling lack of empathy. What it says to me is, secondhand kids deserve secondhand clothes. And, judging from the comments being left on Metafilter by former foster kids and current foster parents, I don’t think that I’m alone.

And, sadly, this may not be the worst of it. From what I understand, while Casswell’s proposal is being considered in the Michigan Senate, Representatives in the Michigan House are considering a proposal to eliminate the back-to-school clothing allowance for orphans all together. Following is a clip from an article written by Susan J. Demas, a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service:

…About 160,000 kids wouldn’t receive their back-to-school clothing allowance under the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget passed by a House subcommittee. That saves $9.9 million (which will go a long way to pay for the $1.2 billion tax break we’re handing businesses).

Chair Dave Agema (R-Grandville) — best known for skipping the crucial 2007 tax hike votes to obliterate sheep with a shotgun in Siberia –suggested that the money isn’t being spent on clothes anyway by those greedy urchins.

“I think the hardship is negligible,” he shrugged…

But, poor kids don’t vote, right? And Michigan businesses need those tax breaks.

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  1. Billy LaLonde
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m too angry to even put my feelings into words right now, and if I did, you wouldn’t be able to mutter hardly any of those words in front of children. Thrift store underwear? Really? Come on…

  2. Boy O Boy
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Billy you think orphans need underwear? “Awesome.” Start a charity. Give a hundred dollars or a thousand. Do you want to buy ten pairs at Victoria Secret or a hundred pairs at Costco? Wait I know. You want somebody else to be forced to buy the underwear so you feel good about yourself and have money to pay for your Kindle downloads of Jimmy Carter books.

    Buying underwear?! Talk about a nanny state.

  3. Posted April 25, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m cultivating a super strain of troll on this site. I’m like a scientist. This is my laboratory.

  4. Kim
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    From Wonkette:

    Orphans, who have set themselves up for disaster in our capitalist meritocracy by choosing to not have parents, should have to wear rags like they did in the days of our founders. (They should also have to work if they can’t afford school, but, you know, one thing at a time.) But you know how children without parents are, they always expect BIG GOVERNMENT to provide them with things to keep them from dying in gutters.

    “A small part of the DHS savings, about $200,000, would come from adjustments to the clothing allowance for foster children, or children of the working poor, of $79 for school clothes. Caswell said children will still get close to that $79, but would be issued gift cards that can only be used at the Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.”

    “Close to,” meaning “less.” Would this further ignominy anger foster children? Like most things in their pitiful lives, probably, yes. But maybe it would also lead to more of them finally killing themselves, which would save the state even more money. And, after all, foster kids can’t vote, and nobody really cares about them personally, so they have absolutely no political power. Why weren’t Republicans making cuts to foster kids before? This is the best way ever to hand businesses money.

  5. Billy LaLonde
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Boy O Boy, I’m sure if we did get them underwear from the thrift store, the racing stripes in the ass end would look a lot like you. I’ve given plenty of clothes to charity, so don’t go getting YOUR panties in a bunch about me. Also, for the record, I read paper books. Mostly Van Halen and David Lee Roth biographies, as well as Pro Wrestling memoirs, though. Thanks.

  6. Boy O Boy
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    So you give clothes to charity but don’t expect anyone to actually wear them? That’s the best summation of liberal theology I’ve ever heard. Thanks for that.

  7. Boy O Boy
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    If only foster kids could wear state sponsored Tommy Hilfiger outfits, they wouldn’t be angry anymore and there problems would be solved.

    Do you people even listen to what you’re “saying”?!

  8. EOS
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Hey Mark – we agree on this!

    Mandating where foster kids must purchase their clothes is wrong. Having said that, I purchase the majority of my clothes at Value World using their 50% discount coupons, but I do draw the line at underwear, swimwear, and shoes. I can buy new or nearly new high quality brand names for pennies on the dollar.

    I also grocery shop at Aldi’s. Most of the off brands are the brand name products in different packaging. The majority of customers at each are employed, middle class taxpayers. There is no stigma attached.

    When I was growing up, back to school meant a trip to Pants Galore – the $5 store and a new pair of plastic soled K-Mart blue light special tennis shoes (~$3). They kinda looked like Chuck Taylor’s. Life was good. It’s all about where you place your values.

  9. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Raise your hand if you have worked with or know a foster child. :raises hand: I have a kid right now who got his ass beat–and I mean BEAT–last year. I am all for whuppins (don’t hate) but this was a BEATING (there’s a difference, trust me on this). The guy living with this kid’s mom made the kid strip naked and took an electrical cord and beat the shit out of him until this 10 year old kid ran, naked, through the streets of Detroit. Thank God/nature/fate for an older gentleman who stopped to help and called the cops.

    This kid has been in foster care ever since. They aren’t bad people, but they are strict. The kid knows he’s not wanted there and knows that he could be “sent back” (i.e. to another home) at any time. And he’s 11 and blind in one eye.

    When he first went into foster care, my parapro managed to get the school to donate some uniforms to him (and remember, our school is broke so that $10 per shirt really was needed but our principal is awesome). I took them home and shrunk them in the dryer b/c they were too big on him. He got a brand new winter coat this year from our coat drive and ripped it (hey, he’s an 11 year old boy :)) and so I sewed it for him. He was stylin’ the coat ever since. His sixth grade teacher and I are trying to be the surrogate person who makes him feel like the best kid in the world, but we can’t because we aren’t his mom (who doesn’t always show up for visitation, btw). Oh yeah, and the guy who beat his ass? He grew up believing that was his dad until the courts told him otherwise.

    Now tell me you want this kid to be forced to buy second hand clothes.

  10. Knox
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    They should have to wear scarlet “F”s on their Salvation Army shirts.

  11. EOS
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I work with kids who are wards of the state in residential treatment facilities. They all wear secondhand clothes for the most part. They get new underwear, socks, bathing suits, and winter coats and gloves. Some bring their own clothes when they arrive. The staff steals anything of value. If they do manage to keep nice clothes, the other residents steal them or destroy them or just beat them up for having them.

  12. Redleg
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    AND I like how in the media, that in recent years news reports, even the story lines of drama shows, like to put forth a tawdry tale of evil foster parents who are portrayed as either cruel, or just in it for the money– Just forget the fact that usually it’s shitty parenting that causes children to be placed in foster care in the first place.

    My mother has been involved with foster care for over thirty years, and like Patti touched on above, many of these kids come from truly horrible home situations. In the care of my mother, most of these kids make strides for the first time in their lives– And now we’re going to begrudge them a “new” outfit or two. Pathetic.

    As for making money in the “foster care industry” I think from what I’ve been able to observe over the years via my mom, raising one of these kids long term costs a person overall if someone actually wants to account for the money spent.

  13. Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I am entirely supportive of Sen. Casswell’s proposal. In fact, I think the government should be more involved in deciding what people should wear. I think state Senators and Representatives should lead by example and only wear track suits from the 1980’s.

  14. Edward
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Having a relative who is a foster parent, I can tell you that the clothing allowance doesn’t come close to covering the basics. Many foster parents go into their own pockets to pay for things. Whether they buy a winter hat at Value World or at Sears shouldn’t matter to legislators. It shocks me to see what we’ve allowed to happen to our country.

  15. Brainless
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Patti, I love you to death (well not death, but to great discomfort) and I don’t hate, but there is no difference between a beating and whuppin’. It’s all inflicting pain on kids and it’s just not OK. I don’t want to fight with you about it, but that’s a slippery slope you’re standing on there.

    In any case, the Boy-o’s of the world have zero understanding of reaping what they sow with respect to a society that acts like its people don’t matter. The sad fact is that people like him simply don’t like other people and wish them very much to suffer for being inferior in their eyes. His complete lack of humility is just sad. His world is a cold, violent place where more people are supposed to die so he can feel yet more superior. Too bad his clay feet will lay waste to his dream of world domination.

    Thank you for standing up for the powerless. Maybe, just maybe, you have broken the cycle with that kid. Who knows? It only takes one spark to light a fire. It’s amazing how inexpensive caring for our own is compared to fucking around oversees at Exxon’s behest.

  16. Christine M
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Patti, I’m sorry you got laid off.

    I’d also like to say I’m a foster parent. My kids wear a lot of second hand clothes (though they are adopted now) but we also do everything we can to afford a private school for them. It was really rough for a few years there but now we are in a great place and I love my kids – there is no difference to them if I have bore them myself. I grew up wanting to do this and now I’m hoping we can sell our small house and buy a bigger house so we can take in more kids.

    I don’t get it. Why don’t the republican’s like people? Well poor people. They seem to want everyone to be poor and uneducated.

  17. Sandy D.
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Great title, Mark. And good work on the troll. He’s one of the most idiotic I’ve seen (except of course for the ones on

  18. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Brainless–right back atcha…it’s a slippery slope and something I’m much better at explaining at in person…actually, the kids explain it better than I do.

    Well, here’s the update on my foster kid. He goes back to the bio mom on Monday (foster mom says that the man is out of the house “on paper”…I asked what she meant and she looked at me and said, “On paper, officially, he’s out of the house.” ) Kid tells me that his mom is going to change his school (he’s been here since Kindergarten) because we all “know” what happened and she wants a fresh start. Thanks to our lovely schools of choice rules, she can put him wherever she wants which may be nowhere because school is over soon.

    Also, the one laptop that connects to my braille embosser broke and I have no way of getting the software loaded and even if I did, none of the other computers are old enough to be able to connect to the embosser. Okay now I’m just bitching but it’s been a Day around here.

  19. Burt Reynolds
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I work with foster kids on a daily basis. This is a horrible idea. EOS, what treatment facility do you work at? I bet we know eachother.

  20. EOS
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m a volunteer. I mentor one kid at a time and have followed them as they have been moved from place to place. I’ve been to three facilities so far – all in Wayne county. Mentoring is very rewarding. I come in and get to do all the fun stuff. I can bring games, laptops, videos, personal items and fast food meals. If you work full time with these kids, I have the utmost respect for you. It’s one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever seen.

  21. Burt Reynolds
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink


    Well, as a socially bleeding liberal, I disagree with most of your points. However, thanks for bucking the Right stigma and giving your time. It matters to these kids more than most will ever understand.

  22. Jenni
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I just called Senator Caswell’s office, and his aide said the proposal doesn’t affect foster child clothin allowances, but rather the Bridge card clothing allowances. He said the proposal is to require that the Bridge card allowance be spent on clothing, and that it can be used anywhere, including regular stores or thrift stores. That sounds more reasonable. I like the idea of being allowed to use thrift store, but not required to. I don’t know if that was the original plan, or if the plan was changed in response to complaints.

  23. Ted
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Think of the money that we’d save if our politicians only wore secondhand clothes?

  24. Meta
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Michigan Messenger is also reporting that the legislation has been amended.

    A proposal by Hillsdale County Republican Sen. Bruce Caswell to allow foster children to purchase clothing only at secondhand stores has been amended.

    Caswell says in a statement on his website that he will amend the proposal to direct the Department of Human Services to develop a special clothing purchase program for foster kids.

    Senator Caswell initially proposed issuing a gift card for the clothing allowance for resale shops in order to ensure the money would actually go toward purchasing clothing. After a suggestion from a constituent, he plans to draft an amendment to the proposal that would direct the state to work with major retailers to create a gift card program that would ensure the clothing allowance money only purchases clothing and shoes at their stores. Furthermore, the amendment will direct DHS to negotiate with the retailers for a discount on those clothing items purchased with the allowance in order to get the best deal for the recipients.

    Caswell also issued the following statement about the proposals:

    “My sole goal in this proposal is to make sure that children receive the clothing allowance that the state has provided for them and not have it used for anything else,” said Caswell. “I believe this solution will go a long way to achieving that objective. If anyone else has a better idea on how we can ensure the money goes for clothing alone, I very much welcome those suggestions and urge you to share your ideas with me. I appreciate the input I have already received that has resulted in making the proposal better.”

    What Caswell fails to mention is the enormous internet chatter that went viral over the weekend. Michigan Messenger’s blog on the issue has been shared over 21,000 times on Facebook alone. The blog was also picked up by, Gawker and the Huffington Post.

  25. Boy O Boy
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    EOS “Mandating where foster kids must purchase their clothes is wrong”? As you say, these kids are “wards of the state.” And you say fondly how your parents didn’t bought you blue light specials.

    These are the “state’s kids.” Since when doesn’t a parent have the right to mandate where her kids buy their clothes?

    Your soft spot for these kids, however admirable, is seriously clouding your logic.

  26. TaterSalad
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Why the Free Market system is the top dog when it comes to people lives and their future.

  27. LC
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Oooh! Not only in breeding but now in fighting! Tater Salad and Boy O Boy just served EOS a big double dish of tag team whooping!

  28. Peter Larson
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, it hasn’t helped your grammar.

  29. Oh Shut Up
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    We’ve had our beautiful foster daughter, our one and only, for almost two years. She came within a hair’s breath of dying a horrifying, violent death when she was an infant. She still suffers from an extremely exaggerated startle response–even though that event happened when she was about two months old. She is terrified of the sound of lawn mowers, motorcycles, trucks, etc. We receive a very small stipend for caring for her, and she gets a small clothing allowance several times a year. If you have children, and have ever had to pay for diapers and formula then you know how expensive it is just to keep a kid alive in this world. We do not receive money for any of those things. Nor are we reimbursed for books, educational toys, fun toys, media, occasional babysitting, milk, food, medicines, baby wipes, a crib, changing table, bed linens, car seats, baby bottles, an infant tub, bottle, tooth, and hair brushes, shoes, etc., ad infinitum. We regularly spend three or four times our stipend out of pocket. In addition to generous hand-offs from friends,, and “curb shopping”, I shop at thrift stores, the heinous Wal-Mart, and regularly scour the “Clearance” sections of these and other stores off-season, and only when I have a coupon for a significant percentage off the lowest ticketed price for clothes. We are still feeling a big pinch financially for her care. We admire other foster families, and don’t know how some of them do it. Our foster kid was a BABY when she came to us. She’s not a “second-hand” kid, she’s not a “bad” kid. She’s not a “drain” on society. She is an amazingly bright, happy, healthy little person now–but she has some serious baggage to deal with in the future. Her birth parents are both extremely mentally ill, violent people. We love and cherish her, and know what an incredible gift these last two years have been. We will do whatever it takes to launch her well into life–no matter what the financial strains may be. I always have to laugh when people suggest that foster parents are in it for the money. WHAT money? We’re not making a “profit” here folks. Can you just imagine what her care would cost if she were housed in a state sponsored orphanage? Can you imagine what the cost would be to her if that were the case? Can you see how that creates a self-perpetuating cycle, and can you imagine the “burdens” placed on society as a result? Do you get that we are VOLUNTEERING our time, blood, sweat, and tears here?

    Until every single parentless child is fostered or adopted by the Right Wingers who defend embryos so violently, I believe those same Right Wingers need to put up or shut up.

  30. Windy City Bob
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    The ones who have access to garbage cans with food will be the luck ones.

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