One of the things that parents of kids in foster care in my area are told will help their case is to show that they are interested in providing for their child. It is recommended to them that they supply clothing, diapers, wipes, baby food....anything of that sort that their child might need. Such items can be brought to a family visit, to return to me with the child.
Sounds reasonable and good, right? That a parent should be showing that they know what their child needs and making sure it is available? N's parents did it perfectly, I thought. Each visit there was something -- a package of diapers, a gallon of "nursery water" to mix with formula, some baby food, a bottle of lotion, the occasional outfit. There was never more than I could reasonably use up and never anything he didn't actually need. (WIC provides all the formula, so there's no need for a parent to purchase that.)
With M's case, it's not going quite so well.
After several consecutive weeks of more and more clothing coming back from the visit, I pointed out to the caseworker that M now had more clothing than she could possibly wear before outgrowing it. Could we steer BioMom away from spending her money on unnecessary clothing? We could, indeed! She was steered towards providing diapers and wipes.
I noticed that the diaper packages are a little...odd. They are generally wrapped simply in clear plastic, in spite of being big-name brand diapers. This suggests to me that what is getting sent to me at each visit is a portion of a larger package -- the largest count boxes often contain 2-3 of these clear plastic packs in each box. Huh, I thought. Maybe she sends one package at a time so that she's bringing something to each visit. Not a big deal.
Then, the next one had the size written on the plastic in black marker. That startled me so much I pointed it out to the person who supervises the visit. She was puzzled, too, so she casually asked about it next visit. Turns out the diapers came "from a church."
So, M's mother is sending me diapers that she's getting from some sort of charitable outreach program.
This bothers me and I'm not sure I can articulate why.
M's mother is trying to show she can provide, but she's doing it by going to charities for the things her daughter needs. In my mind, the charities are there to help people who aren't able to provide. Maybe M's mother isn't able, too, either, but.....
I think I know what bothers me.
M will not go without diapers if her mother does not provide them. (I will provide them. That's what her per diem is for.) And yet, someone whose child will go without diapers if her parent does not provide them might go to that church tomorrow only to find that they do not have any in the right size. Because M's mother took them.
It feels like abuse of the charity. It also feels like M's mother is misrepresenting her ability to provide.
Partly, I'm projecting the scenario out -- assuming that the charity is under the impression that M will be diaper-less without their help. But, isn't that what charities assume? That their help is necessary? And if their help is necessary, then the diapers M's mother is bringing to the visit are not evidence of her ability to provide, regardless of how it may look in the documentation.
It all feels so sneaky and sleazy....but there's nothing I can do about it. I can't refuse to accept the diapers. I suppose I could turn around and immediately donate them back to a charity, but that seems a little excessive.