Foster children under age 5 (I think?) qualify for WIC.
I've never signed any of my placements up for it. There are lots of reasons for that, but mostly it's a combination of two things. First, I've had 3 and 4 year olds; they're eating the same food we are in not-very-large-portions, so it isn't that much of an increase of our food budget to feed them. Second, I've heard so many horror stories about WIC. I've heard all about how hard it was to get the child enrolled in the program, how difficult it was to get into the WIC office to get the vouchers every month, how much of a hassle it was to use them in the store. I've read stories about store cashiers and other customers treating the WIC user with disdain and impatience.
So, I just haven't bothered. It sounded like a lot of trouble for very little gain. But I always told myself that if we ever had a placement that was still on formula...I'd have to figure out WIC. Because that stuff is expensive.
When N arrived with his caseworker, she brought me a bag full of baby food and an open container of formula. She also handed me a small folder, saying "here are his WIC checks." My agency caseworker told me to call the number of the office on the folder to find out how to get them transferred from the former foster family to mine, so that I could actually use them. (You sign the folder; when you use the vouchers, you sign them at the register and the cashier is supposed to compare your signature to the one on the folder.)
There were 4 vouchers for the month of October and 4 for the month of November. There was also one voucher -- for several cans of formula -- which was due to expire in 3 days, so I called the WIC office the next day.
And it was....easy. And pleasant.
That was a nice surprise.
They scheduled an appointment for me to come in first thing the following morning. They told me what to bring with me to the appointment -- the current WIC folder, my foster parent placement paperwork, my ID, and a current utility bill or rent statement -- and said I would be getting the current coupons transferred over so I could use them and also changing his account to the office closest to me.
When I went the appointment, there was no line at the check-in counter. The person behind the counter was friendly and efficient. She took all my paperwork, made copies, and gave it back to me. She told me to have a seat and she would call me "soon." N and I sat in the waiting room for about 5 minutes and then she called me back over. She handed me a new WIC folder with the same coupons in it and pointed out where I should sign the folder. She asked if I wanted to keep the same appointment time for the next visit....which will be in November. She asked me if I had any questions and then answered them. When I was ready to leave, she told me to call them if I had any more questions between now and the appointment in November.
The whole thing took about 15 minutes.
I used the one check that was about to expire yesterday. There weren't any other customers in line with me, but the cashier and the store manager (who was bagging my groceries) were both very helpful and patient. The store manager talked with me for a few minutes about how to find which items in the store can be bought with WIC. He said it can be confusing because "it changes a lot" and that I shouldn't hesitate to ask at the front counter for help if I needed it.
I realize that using WIC as a foster parent is very different experience than using it as a parent in need. I also realize that the appointment process at the WIC office is much easier for me than it would be for a working parent. I wonder about the one step that I didn't have to take -- getting him enrolled in the first place. But, in general, the whole process was much smoother and more pleasant than I expected.