I've blogged at least once that my family collects WIC benefits because we adopted our sons from foster care. DS1 turned five last year, so since then we've been collecting benefits for only DS2.
When we were collecting benefits for both boys, we figured the benefits were worth about $80 per month. The benefits for just DS2 are: three gallons plus one quart of milk (2% or less), two 64 oz. bottles of juice, two loaves of bread or two packages of tortillas (whole wheat), two boxes of cereal, one dozen eggs, one pound of cheese, a jar of peanut butter, or a couple cans of beans, and $6 of fresh fruits or vegetables.
Participants are limited to certain brands and types of different products. For example, you can't buy Lucky Charms or Fruity Pebbles for the cereal. You need to buy approved healthful brands, you can't buy fancy cheeses, only basic cheddar, mozzarella, etc., or expensive breads.
DS2, DW or I have to check in at the county health department every quarter. Twice per year, a face-to-face appointment is required so he can have his height and weight measured, and we consult with a nurse. The other two times, one of us has to review some nutritional information, and take a quiz. Usually that can be done on-line.
DS2 had an office visit last week. At that office visit, we learned that the 2% milk would be dropped as a WIC approved choice. Only 1 1/2%, 1%, or skim will be approved after Sept. 15.
For the first 15 of our 18 years of marriage, we were a red cap, whole milk family. DW is from a dairy farm, and growing up, she drank milk that was drawn off the bulk tank, fresh from the cows. Milk straight from a holstein cow (the breed that her family milks) is about 3.4 to 3.6% milk fat, and red cap "whole" milk is 3.25% milk fat. So, for her, buying red cap milk was a drop in milk fat. But, once we were on WIC, we relented, and began buying blue cap 2%, whether or not we were using WIC.
The change wasn't a big deal for me, or for the kids, and I'm not sure it was a big deal for DW, either. Regardless, we made the change, and are probably healthier for it.
I've seen 1% milk in local stores, but I'm not sure I've ever seen 1 1/2%. I think skim tastes like milky water. I'm sure I could get used to it, but I like a little substance to my milk.
If we plan to stay on WIC, we'll have to change our ways. We've discussed dropping WIC, and have decided that if the "cost" of the quarterly check-ins outweighs the benefits, we would drop it. My office is very close to the clinic, so it's been fairly convenient to keep up with the appointments. We'll probably ease into the decrease in milk fat with no problem, and probably switch over to the 1 1/2 or 1% (or it could be 1% or 1/2%, I'm really not sure) completely, and stay there even after benefits expire in another year.
Viewing the 'Foster Care' Category
I've blogged at least once that my family collects WIC benefits because we adopted our sons from foster care. DS1 turned five last year, so since then we've been collecting benefits for only DS2.
This post is not meant as an opportunity to whine, although it may come appear as such. I just want to document my thoughts at this point in time, and archive them.
Raising kids with special needs is tough. I blogged a little while back about how we had started both boys at an autism clinic. The staff at the clinic use a therapy method called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is considered the gold standard in autism therapy.
DS1 has been diagnosed with Classic Autism, and DS2 has been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified, which is also on the Autism Spectrum, but not as severe as Classic Autism. When you look at DS1, and interact with him just a little bit, anyone would know something is off about him. DS2, on the other hand looks like a typical four year old. It takes a bit more interaction with him to realize he is not a typical four year old. Regardless, they both qualified for treatment at the clinic.
Of course, the primary reason for sending them to the clinic is for them to receive the therapy, so they can develop into the best DS1 and DS2 that they can be. A secondary, and very important reason that they attend the clinic is so that my DW can get some much needed respite. They are transported directly from the clinic to their school, about two miles away. They are gone away from my DW from 8:30 AM until about 4:30 PM four days a week.
One of us (usually DW) drives them to the clinic. The clinic is about 23 miles from our house. They started at the clinic in mid-March. The four day a week, 23 mile trip is driving us broke. There are a thousand reasons to send them to the clinic, and only one reason not to - it is expensive.
We (mostly DW) are currently exploring services that can help us defray the costs. DW did learn of a service that will transport children to clinics such as these. That service is only available in the tri-county metro Detroit area.
I'm sure we will find something that will require another social worker, more paper work, and more record keeping and more vouchers, etc.
Again, I don't want to come across as whiny, although I probably am whining. It's just that this stuff is hard, and it didn't come as part of the Foster Parent Training Manual.
We visited our attorney on Friday. As a reminder, the reason for our appointment was to have him set up special needs trusts for our two boys .
I was fairly ignorant on what exactly a special needs trust is. What I did know was that it a special needs trust is a way to shelter money earmarked for their use that doesn't count as an asset if/when they qualify for social security payments after age 18.
I'll pause here for a moment. Let me be very clear - I hope that both boys lead very productive adult lives, employed to the fullest of their abilities. They were each adopted out of foster care, and DS1 is autistic, and DS2 has cerebral paulsey, and fetal alcohol syndrome. We need to plan for the worst.
Anyway, what our attorney told us is that he would add an amendment to our existing estate planning documents. We should set up separate savings accounts for each of them, and refer to those savings accounts in the amendment. That's it. Pretty easy.
Immediately after our attorney appointment was finished, we drove to our bank, and set up new savings accounts, one for each son. We put $1,000 in each account.
We'll continue to add to those accounts through the years - cash birthday gifts, money that they may earn through the sale of 4-H animals, and we'll periodically add our own money.
We will need to drop off our current trust papers to the attorney. Somehow neither one of us thought to bring them with us on Friday. But, it's done. Fairly simple.
Completely unrelated - I said in one of my posts last week that the porch renovation would only take a couple of days. That was a fantasy. The contractor didn't understand that when my wife said that the entrance to the house needed to be "barrier free" that she meant that it needed to be "free of barriers". We lost all of Friday when new plans were made. They are working on it again today.
Last week I blogged that DW was denied 0% financing on some book purchases, and we ASSUMED it was because our short sale had been reported to the credit bureaus.
DW checked our credit reports. Mine was fine. Hers had a big ding on it, but not related to our short sale.
The credit report showed that an $85 bill from a local hospital had gone into collections. The date was this last March. We've used the hospital a handful of times over the past five years, so it was not out of the question that an unpaid bill had slipped by. The weird thing was that her address was listed in a local town in which we've never lived.
So, DW went to the hospital yesterday to get it all sorted out. She was prepared to pay the $85 if the hospital could show that the bill was ours.
It turns out that the bill was not ours. It was a bill for a hospital stay for our now adopted 4 yo son. He was in the hospital when he was about 1 yo when he was under the "care" of his birth parents. We've taken him to the same hospital, so his old name is now associated with us.
The weird thing is, we've never been contacted by the hospital, or a collection agency about the bill. The hospital stay was more than three years ago, and it simply went to collections under her name this past March.
We filed our taxes yesterday. I did some looking, and determined that IRS was ready for returns that claimed depreciation. Apparently they've been ready for the better part of a week.
We got notification that IRS accepted our return. Now we just wait for the refunds. I didn't write down exact values, but our federal refund is around $3,400 and our state refund is around $500.
When we receive our refunds, we'll submit an amended return that includes our adoption credit. Our adoption credit is about $1,200. The reason we're filing an amended form is that it will take longer to get our adoption credit.
Lots of places for the money to go. No problem there. We're still waiting for a bid on our porch improvement, and I would like some of it to go to CC debt. And, of course, we would like to have some reserves if needed to cover costs associated with selling our house.
Sometimes I see a particularly good quote on the top of the SA banner that I've never seen before. I like this one: "No-one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions. He had money as well." - Margaret Thatcher. Where do they get all those quotes?
Beginning of the month CC payments have been posted. remaining balance on CC#1 = $929.00 (8.9% APR), and remaining balance on CC#2 = $726.52 (5.25% APR), for a grand total of $1,655.52.
We didn't do anything special for the Super Bowl. I took our boys down to my folks house to watch it. My folks are in Florida for a couple of months, and we're watching their house for them while they're gone. I quit watching during the power outage. I didn't spend any extra money at all on Superbowl Sunday.
Our taxes are completed, but not filed. We claim depreciation on our for sale/rental house. IRS is apparently not ready to accept any returns that claim depreciation. I suppose we could file without the Schedule E, and file an amended form later. But, we were already going to file an amended return with our Adoption Credit claim. We're expecting a $1,200 AC. We could file now, and include both the Schedule E, and the AC on the amended form, or file two amended forms, or just wait for the depreciation thing to work itself out, and file our 1040 + Schedule E, and then the amended with the AC. That last option is the one we're opting for right now.
The reason that we're definitely waiting on the AC is that you cannot file the AC electronically. You need to file that via mail, because they IRS requires proof of adoption, and they look at AC returns very closely. Last year, we filed the AC as an amended return. We got our regular refund quickly, and our AC in August.
The AC in non refundable this year. Last year it was fully refundable. I'm not sure how long we will have to claim the credit. Five years? We've looked, but as far as we know, IRS has not released that information yet.
Most likely (if we do end up selling our house in 2013), we will be able to claim the unused potion all next year, because we expect to owe a butt-load of tax due to the short sale property not being our primary residence.
It's not everyday that you get a letter from the IRS. We did today. Naturally, it was the first thing I opened.
You may remember that last August we got a check from the IRS for an adoption credit. That check included $104.43 of interest. The mailing today was a 1099 reminding us that we are required to include the $104.43 interest payment in our 2012 Form 1040.
That's not such a big deal. Letters from the IRS can be a lot worse than that.
On a related note, you may also remember that we finalized another adoption in April 2012. I'm no tax expert, but it's my understanding that the credit for adoptions finalized in 2012 go back to non-refundable status. That's not so good. For us, anyway.
I've been inactive for quite some time, but I wanted to let you all know that our 13K federal adoption tax credit arrived in the mail this week, with interest. We deposited it, and the check cleared yesterday. Today we paid bills! $2,500 went to pay off our new front porch, $2,000 went to one of the credit cards, $5,000 paid off our van, $2,200 went to family members for Mort 2, and the rest went to our EF. Sure feels good!
Some of you may be tempted to critique how the money was spent. Please don't. (ie, more should have gone toward high interest credit cards) This was a balance of my wishes, DW's wishes, and sending money to family members with whom we have loans. Trust me, I know that paying off higher interest accounts makes more purely financial sense, but we feel an obligation to accelerate progress on family loans.
Remember how in the early spring I blogged about building a fence in the front yard for a play area for our boys? Well we've been using that fenced area. A lot. The fence connects to the our front door porch. The porch is about 80 years old. The constant use of the porch/fenced area has led to rapid deterioration of the porch. It is no longer safe. It needs to be replaced.
The bid for replacement is $4,500. I had $4K in my mind before we got the bid back, so it's close. We trust the contractor, so we're going with his bid.
He figures he can do the work the week after next, and it will take about 4 days. Until then, no fence for us.
We got a letter from the IRS yesterday (or Friday). I can't remember for sure.
As a reminder, someone used the SSN of our newly adopted son on their tax return to claim him as a dependent, despite the fact that we provided his care for 8 months in 2011, and can legally claim him.
The letter stated that they had received our amended tax return. That the case was being moved on up the chain. And that we should expect to hear back from them within a month or so.
Things are just about to get crazy busy for me at work. I'll be tied up for about six weeks. So my posting frequency will drop off substantially through May. Unless it rains a lot over the next couple of weeks. In fact, I started posting to this blog late last April because it was raining. A lot. I had very little to do at work because I was stuck inside, so I began posting here. Then I got busy, and quit for a long time. Clearly I came back. So, hopefully I'll be back in full personal financial blogging mode in June.
And now on to the current personal financial stuff.
So remember how we're supposed to get a federal adoption tax credit? And remember how that person claimed our adopted son as an exemption?
Most people who claim the adoption credit (at least according to the online forums DW follows) seem to receive it in Junish or Julyish. Apparently a topic came up in this forum tonight. "Have you gotten you adoption credit yet?". One person responded that they didn't get their 2010 credit until September 2011. Another person responded that they didn't get their 2010 credit until just last month. And none of these people had their kid's social security number hi-jacked!
We got a letter in the mail on Friday. The letter was from the state Department of Human Services office about an adoptive child/family enrichment program. This program will reimburse families who have adopted through foster care up to $500 for certain expenses. "Fun" type expenses. The letter listed things like family vacations, senior pictures, camps for the children, etc. The funds are limited, and it's on a first-come-first-served basis.
We thought our new fence would fit nicely. Our reimbursement form and receipts went out in the mail today, so we think we stand a good chance. DW called it an Easter miracle.
Our front yard fence is up. Sorry, no pictures. I'm not really the picture taking sort. It's working out moderately well.
A coupe of nights ago when it was warm we let the boys out to play. I busied my self picking up fallen sticks in the yard. DW was happy doing something, and the girls were happy playing too. I can't think of a time when all six of us were outside and happy at the same time. DD1 even let her two chickens peck around in the fenced area to the great delight of DS1.
Then a slight problem happened. DS2 figured out how to climb out the side of the porch. Argh! So, we bought some lattice that we'll have to figure out how to attach to the ends of the porch and the brick house. It won't look pretty, but we'll have to do it.
The fence ended up actually looking fairly attractive. It's as solid as can be for what we spent.
You may remember that we adopted DS1 in December. We have not yet adopted DS2, despite that fact that we've had him for two years now.
Juvenile court is held on Wednesdays. We opted for the last time slot of the day - 3:30. We hope to fill the court room with family and well-wishers. It's a small court room.
The judge and his staff came into court from their Christmas vacation to complete the paperwork for the adoption of DS1. So, we have asked the court if we could have a ceremonial adoption for DS1 on the 18th as well.
We'll have a cake, ice cream and hors d'oeuvre celebration at our church following the ceremony. Our church is about a block and a half from the court house. We're shooting for a $200 budget for the celebration.
It's been a very long road full of red tape and other assorted BS. As foster parents DW and I have constantly reminded ourselves and each other that it's FOR THE KIDS. No one in their right mind would do it otherwise.
I guess the title says it all.
He ended up renting the auger. Just as well, because he's running into tree roots. The posts should be set today, let the concrete set for a couple of days, and erect the panels on Monday.
Pretty good for just deciding on the project a week ago.
I stopped by mom and dad's house last night. They live less than a mile away. They gave me a $550 check. It was a payment for labor at the maple woods. That was on top of a $2,100 check they gave me last summer. They said that the two checks added together was 1/2 of profit from 2011 syrup sales. They really didn't have to do that. When I protested, mom said that was how Grandpa and Grandma used to do it.
So, that $550 is very extremely close to the cost of materials for the fence that will be going up this weekend. Wow.
So the fence we picked out was a special order. We would receive it three weeks after order. We initially went with it, but changed our minds to one that is in stock. It's a good fence too, but maybe not quite as attractive. Our contractor will pick it up today, and start on it either Thursday, or early next week. He has another job lined up that he may or may not start this week, depending on his client's needs.
The fence that we went with is cedar. We'll need to get on a schedule to stain it. I would guess every two or three years. We might not need it beyond three years, or we might need it for the next eight. We'll see.
The fence is $760. The contractor is charging $500 to construct. So that's on the outer limits of our budget. Too bad. But, as I've already discussed, it is a need. So far we've met my goals - attractive as is possible, and it doesn't appear that it will break the bank. Only time will tell if it's sturdy enough to withstand the strength and persistence of our boys.
The fence guy stopped by yesterday. He's actually the same guy who put in our basement windows. We picked out the style of fence we wanted. We'll order from Menard's. It's nearly impossible to discern the cost of the fence, because they publish the cost of the sections, but you need to figure in posts, hardware, gates, etc. And the cost for those items are not as easy to find. We're figuring it will be $1,200 for an 18X24 fence (those dimensions will be expanded a bit by the posts). Our front porch will act as one of the fence "sides".
I'll probably dig the holes for the posts myself. We'll rent a gas powered auger. Hope to have it completed in a couple of weeks. We have real March weather again, so a couple of weeks is OK.
I've blogged about a couple major themes: debt reduction and the need to build cash reserves. One of my minor themes is that of a foster/adoptive parent. Both of our adoptive sons have special needs. You can read that as "they are difficult to parent."
Spring has sprung in Michigan. We like to go outside and job around, and do yard work, and generally enjoy ourselves. That is difficult with two boys with special needs when your yard has no fence. they tend to run away, In fact, I felt like a prisoner in my own home last summer because we couldn't take them out.
So, DW and I have decided that we will need to purchase and erect a fence for a play yard this spring. Of course, that will necessitate a side track from other goals. But, we need this fence for our own mental health. And, of course, we receive payments for care, and I think this fits nicely.
So, we begin researching fencing options. Something sturdy, and as attractive as is reasonable, and something that will not break the bank.
As always, I will keep you all posted on our progress.
I know some of you have been following my tax refund situation. In January we adopted a special needs child, whom we had been caring for since last April. Someone else illegally claimed him as a dependent.
You also may remember that we filed our 1040 without claiming him as a dependent, and once we received our partial refund, we filed an amended 1040 claiming both him as an dependent, and also caliming our adoption tax credit.
Well, we received the remainder of our State of Michigan refund last week. That's god news. We're still waiting for our federal refund (plus adoption credit). But we've heard that we could wait until Jume or July for that.
Now I'm working on an assumption here. Please correct me if I am not thinking correctly. But, I would guess that the state would not send their refund until after they got some sort of green light from the Feds. That is, is our state refund good evidence that the feds have found us worthy of claiming our son as a dependent? And now it's just a waiting game for the balance of our fed refund and adotption credit?
I feel as if I'm in a financial holding pattern.
DW checked the status of our federal refund last night. It's estimated that we will receive our refund on February 14. Plenty of time to pay our bills before the end of the month, but I want it NOW nonetheless.
Also, as I've mentioned previously, I opened a new CC for balance transfers. I transferred all of CC4 and part of CC 1. The transactions still haven't shown up. The new card stated that it could take up to two weeks for the tranfers to complete. This Friday will be two weeks for the transfer of CC4, and next Monday (I think) will be two weeks for the partial transfer of CC1.
Total credit line on new CC is $9K. I transferred $2,700 total from the two cards. That way I'm utilizing 30% of the new CC, which I've heard helps your utilization ratio for your credit rating.
Also on hold is the total state and federal refund because of someone else claiming DS1, and the adoption credit.
So, we wait. Good things will happen.
Well, I'm not makingthe trip. DW is. The office is about 45 miles away, and she's packing up all four kids, so she can get a new SSN for DS1.
We got his ne birth certificate in the mail on Friday. That's the last piece we needed for a new SSN.
As I mentionedin a prvious blog, we can account for at least five adults who may have had access to his existing SSN before he came into our care.
The new SSN will allow us to protect him against future identity theft, and also allow us to claim him as a dependent on our tax return in future years, without fear that someone else will claim him.
We ended up filing our taxes as if DS 1 didn't exist. We'll now wait for the refund checks and the new birth certificate before we pursue the rest of our refund/adoption credit with IRS.
I just checked my checking account balance. It's +$900. Not bad for the end of the month. Actually, it's pretty darn great. We still have our van payment to make before the end of the month, and we still owe $300 on our heating fuel. So, we'll end the month about $400 to the positive. That cash will go toward CC4.
If we get our reduced income tax refunds (state and fed) in the next two or three weeks, the opressive CC4 balance will be history.
That, my friends will be cause for a (no cost) celebration! Then I will start with much vim and vigor to tackle CC1.
DW e-filed our taxes late yesterday morning. Then she checked the status of our e-file at around 9:00 last evening. She found out that our filing had been rejected. The reason for the rejection was that someone else had used DS1's name and SSN as a dependent. DS1 is our son whom we adopted last month.
Before DS1 came to us as a foster child last April, at least five different adult people probably had access to his SSN.
We provided care for him for 8 1/2 months in 2011. We meet all qualifications to claim him as a dependent.
I guess the bottom line is that this will slow our tax refund down substantially. We will need to now file the old fashioned way, and prove our case. While I was really counting on the money, it will eventually work its way out.
We took the boys to the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor on Thursday. Ann Arbor is a 2 1/2 hour drive from our remote, rural home. The appointment was at the U of M Fetal Alcohol clinic, and it took us 7 months to get in.
We arrived at 7:40 AM. The appointment started promptly at 8:00, as scheduled. We left at 2:10. In between, we consulted with six medical professionals, including a genetics team, fetal alcohol diagnosticians, and a child psychologist. The boys also had blood drawn for genetic testing.
While we won't have the complete reports for another couple of weeks, we did learn that DS2 indeed does have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, and DS1 does not have FASD, but he is in the Autism Spectrum.
Sad, yes. Actually, I was (am) angry at DS2's biological mother, and DS1's biological parents' neglect almost certainly, in my mind, any way, caused the autism. But, we've known something is different about each of them for a long time.
So, we take the information that we've learned, and will learn, and use it to provide as close to a normal life as we can for these boys.
The seven months was worth the wait. The staff at U of M was exceptional, and the entire process, while there, was carried out with amazing efficiency.
I just found out that for 2012, the currently refundable adoption credit decreses from the 2011 value of $13,360 to $12,650 (I already knew that), and it it reverts back to a nonrefundable credit (I didn't know that).
Of course, congress can change any of the above facts any time between now and the end of the year. And it's an election year, so we'll see.
I'm just glad that one of our two adoptions was made final in 2011. Because, as it stands right now, that's a $710 difference.
DW and I became licensed foster care providers in Feb. 2010. We received our first placement in March 2010. We picked the three week old infant up at the NICU. He never spent a night with his bio parents. His bio dad is a convicted child abuser and a sexual deviant. It turns out that he beat the hell out of bio mom late in the pregnancy - thus the need for the stay in the NICU and the subsequent Cerebral Palsy diagnosis.
One year later - after twice weekly visits with bio mom - both bio parents signed off on their parental rights. You see, bio dad was facing fresh criminal sexual conduct charges, and he felt it was in his best interest to sign off. He convinced mom to do the same. The CSC charges were against her children from a previous relationship.
In April 2011 we had a 2 1/2 year old placed with us. His parents are drug dealers. He was found in the van with them when they were busted selling drugs. He was also criminally neglected. This is the child we just adopted.
We receive an approximate $1,200 stipend each month from the state of Michigan to care for these children. We receive more for the (now) three year old because his needs are greater. In addition we receive WIC benefits to purchase food. The value of those benefits are about $60 per month. Cost for diapers, clothing, car seats, visits with bio parents, etc. come from the $1,200 payment.
DW has been generating about $10K per year in freelance income since the birth of our first child. She no longer has time for that.
Payments for children are based on the complexity of their level of care. Level 1 children are your run of the mill children in the foster system. Our youngest child is currently a Level 1. Level 2 children require enough counseling or other types of specialists appointments and specialized care in the home to increase payments by $5 per day. Level 3 children may have explosive behaviors, or require increased counseling to receive yet another $5 per day. Our three year old is classified as a Level 3. The final classification is "Medically Fragile". These children require constant or near constant medical attention. I've heard that payments for these children can be around $50 per day.
We (mainly DW) are working to get our 21 month old re-classified as a Level 2. Level 2, 3, and Medically Fragile adopted children retain payments until they are 18. Level 1 children retain no payments post-adoption. We feel the CP diagnosis is enough. The State of Michigan disagrees. Fortunately the Judge agrees with us, and he is being re-evaluated. Hopefully adoption around his second birthday.
The final financial benefit is the $13,000 per child refundable tax credit.
I understand that not everyone is cut out for foster care. But there is a tremendous need. Heck, we're not cut out for fostering adolescents, at least not right now. We've heard horror stories about foster parents having their car stolen, or being threatened with knives, or darn near having their house burnt down. The bottom line for us is the safety of our young children, so we won't be fostering teens for a good many years.
We've fostered three other children during the past two years - each of them short-term placements.
If you have any interest at all in learning more about foster care, feel free to reach me at my personal email address - firstname.lastname@example.org.
We adopted a three year old little boy through foster care this last Friday. He's been living with us since April 2011. He had a REALLY tough past - almost as tough as you could imagine from a neglect stand point.
He will likely be mentally and emotionally scarred for the rest of his life.
The adoption of a special needs child through foster care includes a $13K refundable federal tax credit (see my related post in the SA forums).
The tax refund is meant as an incentive to get these children into safe and loving homes. We would have adopted without the tax credit, but it sure is nice.
If anyone is interested in learning more about foster care or adoption through fostering, feel free to PM me through my SA account.
It's tough, hard, work through a bureaucratic maze. But there are 20,000 children in Michigan alone who need safe, loving, nurturing homes, or just plain a chance in this world.