As a former foster mom (of four Sudanese teenaged refugees aka “Lost Boys”), I know it’s possible to use the foster parent stipend to help pay your mortgage or other household expenses and still do right by the kids. But it’s not easy because the stipends are usually low. Ours barely covered food and other essentials, and many months we paid out-of-pocket for things like sports gear or a computer for homework. (And we were in Massachusetts, a generous state.)
Many people who view fostering as an income stream wind up shafting the kids.
Leave it to one of the Y’all Qaeda macho men to take things to a new low, however. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum and his wife have apparently fostered more than fifty boys over the past decade, many from “mental hospitals, drug rehabs and group homes for emotionally distressed youth.” Not only did he use the stipend to support himself, he also made them work on his ranch.
In my view this comes close to human trafficking. Sure, foster kids should do chores, but to use money that is supposed to support them to support yourself AND to use them as free labor on your ridiculous macho-man massively-government-subsidized nonstarter of an animal-exploitation business? NOPE.
More details will undoubtedly emerge, and perhaps they’ll cast a sunnier light on the situation. Perhaps Finicum paid the kids for their work. Or perhaps the ranch was a really wonderful experience compared with the institutions the kids came from. None of that changes the fact that these kids were vulnerable, and exploited. I wonder what else they could have been doing if they hadn’t been conscripted into the ranching business. Studying? Seeing a counselor or visiting with their sponsor? Getting some actual relevant-to-the-21st-century work experience?
Or, how about just plain goofing off and being kids?
Based on this quote alone I would be very surprised if any facts emerge that exonerate Finicum:
“[Fostering] was my main source of income,” Finicum said. “My ranch, well, the cows just cover the costs of the ranch. If this means rice and beans for the next few years, so be it. We’re going to stay the course.”
Sounds like every grieving parent I know!
Dickens himself couldn’t have created a better villain.
The mystery is why the child-welfare authorities in Finicum’s state of AZ acted now. My guess is that they noticed the media interest surrounding all things Y’all Qaeda and decided to act pre-emptively to avoid getting spotlighted. “Hey Marge, remember those homeless kids we keep giving to the rancher for free labor? Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that.”