For once, Matt Taibbi left some space for others in his Michele Bachmann smackdown.
As Bachmann has told and retold her story as one of divine inspiration, she has recast her biography in ever more grandiose directions. A great example is the issue of her "28 children." Bachmann has five kids and, something even her most withering critic should acknowledge, has cared for 23 foster kids. But in 2008 — 10 years after any of her foster children had been in her home — Bachmann was talking as though she was still dashing home from Congress to cook for them. "Every weekend now when I go home, I will go to the grocery store, I'll buy food for the family," she said. "We have five kids and 23 foster kids that we raise. So I go to the grocery store and buy a lot of food."
A mild rebuke for her claim that she still bought groceries for kids that hadn't been in her care for ten years. The NYTimes profile of Bachmann states that her career as a foster mother was from 1992 to 2000. If correct, then she grocery shopped for kids eight, and not ten, years after they were gone. Not an important difference, but small errors in the critique of rightwing politicians send their troops into a tizzy and they blow it all out of proportion.
More troubling is the impression that “... has cared for 23 foster kids” makes her sound like a cross between Mother Theresa and The Duggars. As quoted in the NYTimes:
“We took 23 foster children into our home, and raised them, and launched them off into the world.”
The selfless Bachmanns. So, unlike those minority foster parents that Republicans love to accuse of doing it for the money. As if state reimbursements to foster parents cover more than the cost of housing, feeding, and clothing a child. (In California it doesn't even do that, and charities are left to make up for some of the shortage.)
CUNY – Hunter College of Social Work issued a comprehensive report on the basic reimbursement rates for all states in 2008. No surprise that they are low. (Big surprise on which state is the highest. But ssh – think of the children and keep it quiet.)
The Bachmanns, however, weren't ordinary foster parents. No basic MN reimbursement rate of between $585 and $699 per month (2008 rates) for the children they took into their home. They took in children through the private agency PATH Minnesota, Inc. George Hendrickson, L.S.W., CEO of PATH disclosed that the Bachmann's provided what is called a “treatment home.” According to the NYTimes:
That designation required a higher standard of care from parents who had the educational and emotional capability to handle “serious mental health issues.” Dr. Bachmann’s training was an asset.
They were licensed to care for up to three children at a time and received reimbursement that was at least twice the basic rate. (Currently, for three children, that would be over $50,000 a year. Not a princely sum, but ..)
Mr. Hendrickson was also able to say, “They began by offering short-term care for girls with eating disorders ...”
As twenty-three children came and went during a period of only eight years fostering and never more than three at a time, Michele couldn't possibly have, as she said, “raised them, and launched them off into the world.” Nor did she ever grocery shop for more than eight children (her five plus three) at any time. How often that was and the length of time any of those foster children stayed in the Bachmann home is confidential.
Being a foster child is rarely a positive experience. Being a foster parent is most often a very difficult and thankless task. A troubled child in such a circumstance almost always needs support, kindness, and a stable living situation for years and not what they usually get, being shuttled in and out of foster care and among foster homes. Perhaps the Bachmanns were better short-term foster parents than many others, but they aren't Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohys