‘Taxing the Kindness of Strangers’

When we talk about the Republican austerity agenda, we tend to focus on the economic impact — how many jobs it will cost the nation; how much it will slow economic growth, etc.

But we shouldn’t forget the real-world impact on millions of families. In a new piece in the print edition of the Washington Monthly, Benjamin Dueholm explores, from a very personal perspective, the impact GOP budget cuts have on foster parents. The editors’ summary of the story helps set the stage for an interesting piece:

Of all the brutal cuts to government being pushed today in Washington, perhaps the most self-defeating are those likely to be felt by America’s foster parents — the volunteer army that steps up to care for children on behalf of the state. In a moving and incisive essay featured in the November/December issue of the Washington Monthly, Benjamin Dueholm chronicles his own experience becoming a new foster parent to an injured baby girl, while at the same time watching the age of austerity close in to threaten the institutions he is fast coming to rely on.

Social programs like Medicaid and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, whose budgets now sit on the chopping block, are well-known elements of the safety net for lower-income Americans. But those same programs also make modern foster parenting possible.

“The state insures the child, pays for daycare, investigates claims of abuse, and retains legal custody, but it cannot actually put a baby to bed at night,” Dueholm writes. “And so, on the other side of this most intimate public-private partnership are usually people like us, left alone with a stranger’s child and a garbage bag full of clothes and wondering what’s going to happen next. And what happens next depends, to a stomach-churning degree, on the state’s willingness and ability to keep up its half of the bargain.”

Read Benjamin Dueholm’s “Taxing the Kindness of Strangers.”