Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Michigan Lawmaker Says Kids in Foster Care Should Only Wear Clothes from Goodwill

Michigan State Sen. Bruce Casswell
by Joanna

If you believe, as I do, that all politicians and the majority of "common" people in this country just do not give a fuck about the poor, then you should recognize how important it is for us to raise awareness to issues which impact the poor. The truth is, politicians, no matter what party they belong to, simply will not do the right thing, unless they feel significant pressure to do so from the electorate.

Earlier today, this story was brought to my attention:
Under a new budget proposal from State Sen. Bruce Casswell, children in the state’s foster care system would be allowed to purchase clothing only in used clothing stores.

Casswell, a Republican representing Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee and St. Joseph counties, made the proposal this week, reports Michigan Public Radio.

His explanation?

“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.”

Under his plan, foster children would receive gift cards that could only be used at places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other second hand clothing stores.

The plan was knocked by the Michigan League for Human Services. Gilda Jacobs, executive director of the group, had this to say:

“Honestly, I was flabbergasted,” Jacobs says. “I really couldn’t believe this. Because I think, gosh, is this where we’ve gone in this state? I think that there’s the whole issue of dignity. You’re saying to somebody, you don’t deserve to go in and buy a new pair of gym shoes. You know, for a lot of foster kids, they already have so much stacked against them.”

Caswell says the plan will save the state money, though it isn’t clear how much the state spends on clothing for foster children or how much could be saved this way. SOURCE
I did a little research into the story, and found out that foster parents and parents who are on welfare in Michigan receive $80 a year as a clothing allowance for their children. This lawmaker wanted to limit the ability of foster parents to spend the allowance in thrift stores.

I wasn't exactly sure how much of a saving this would be for the state; he was not putting forth the idea of a reduction in the allotment of funds. Instead, he was trying to distinguish where the money could be spent; and, it seemed kind of like an attempt to punish kids in the foster care system.

Well, after looking online for more information, I found an article on NPR that indicated that Caswell apparently changed his position. He is now putting forth a proposal that would have the state issue the clothing allowance in the form of gift certificates to major retailers. He also proposes that the state work with stores such as Walmart or Target to allow discounts for children on assistance so that the clothing dollars will go further. He has now changed his tune, and says that the reason for his proposal is not to save money, but rather to insure that the clothing allowance actually goes towards the purchase of clothing.

So, I thought there was no story; insuring that kids actually get clothing from their clothing allowance seemed like a decent idea to me. Just like food stamps are only to be spent on food, so too, the clothing allowance should go towards clothing. And, with a gift card that can be used at a major retailer, kids can get underwear, socks and other new items they cannot find in a second hand shop.

But, I think that this story shows the importance of forcing politicians to introduce responsible policies regarding the poor. People fight for the poor tirelessly. If not for pressure from said people (who were aware), the original proposal might have gone through. And no one would have been the wiser, because frankly, too many people just do not care about what happens to people that they do not know personally.

Politicians DO NOT GIVE A FUCK about serving "we" the people; that is, unless they have huge bank accounts that can fund their campaigns. This is why social justice advocates cannot allow even the seemingly smallest issue or situation to go unnoticed. It is up to the few who actually do care, to make enough noise and bring enough attention to issues that forces politicians to do the right thing. I do not care if they are Democrats, Republicans, or Tea Party members. A politician is not going to do the right thing until they are forced to do so. So, let's never forget to keep up the pressure, folks.


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