Over the weekend, CBS' Political HotSheet asks the question : Did Michele Bachmann "Raise" 23 Children?
After her speech at the Republican Leadership Conference, I asked GOP presidential candidate and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann about her repeated claims that she has "raised" 23 foster children, a comment she reiterated in an interview with CNN following her speech.
Writing in the Daily Beast this week, Michelle Goldberg quoted Kris Harvieux, who worked as a senior social worker in the foster care system in Bachmann's county, who said at least some of Bachmann's placements were likely short term.
"Some of them you have for a week. Some of them you have for three years, some you have for six months," he said. "She makes it sound like she got them at birth and raised them to adulthood, but that's not true." ---snip---
Asked to explain her situation with her foster children, Bachmann said "we took children in as teenagers."
"Their family was facing a challenge and they weren't going to be able to be at home with their parents and so we took them in as teenagers," she continued. "And our job was to see that they graduated from high school and were successfully launched into the world."
Asked how long they lived with her, she said "it varied."
I asked Bachmann to explain the parameters of how long the children lived with her - was it as short as one week? As long as three years?
"It varied, it really varied depending on the children," Bachmann responded. "And we've never gotten into specifics about the children because we've always wanted to observe their privacy and that of their families. As I'm sure you can appreciate."
I want to preface the following by stating that I believe Foster Parents do amazing work, and I am not questioning the kindness it takes to take a child, even a young adult and bring them into your home. What I am questioning is the legitimacy of this claim. Information found in this article
says the Minnesota State Department of Human Services says she held a Foster Care license for 7 and a half years. 23 foster children, along with 5 biological children are a lot to raise in that period of time - which is why this statement is important:
"Some of them you have for a week. Some of them you have for three years, some you have for six months," says Harvieux, who also served as a foster parent herself. "She makes it sound like she got them at birth and raised them to adulthood, but that's not true."
Yet Bachmann clearly had some of her foster children long enough to enroll them in local schools, and it was through them that she got involved in school politics. While she taught her own children at home before sending them to private Christian schools, state law required foster kids to go to public school.
Bold face mine, as I want to make that point clear -- She did have the right to send her biological children to private school. What I found interesting about this is something she said in her 2007 testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee in Congress regarding disconnected youth
They weren't your typical foster children. They were in need of greater depth of services. Many of them had lived in numerous homes throughout their lives and again had experienced various levels of abuse. We were honored to be able to bring these children into our home, Mr. Chair. What we saw is that what these children needed more than anything was love, acceptance and stability. While we were by no means a perfect family one thing that we could offer to these children was just a little bit of a picture of what the word normal looks like.
Here's a mom and a dad who love each other. Here is a fairly regular schedule. Here's a mom who cooks a meal, a dad who goes to work. This is what normal, a snapshot of normal might look like for the life of a child. ---snip---
Oftentimes, without exception our foster children all had an IEP, an individualized education plan. Without exception, they had a social worker assigned to them, a counselor assigned to them. They did have support systems but oftentimes they were in a situation where they were seen as transient and temporary.
Ms. Bachmann no longer fosters children, and her testimony seemed earnest and sincere. What I am left wondering is how many of those 23 children felt a sense of security and how many she fostered at once, how many did graduate under her care and how many were shuffled around more after they left?
I would say that her claim raising these children is a bit of a stretch. It would be far more honest in the year 2011--- the one where she is now Candidate for President Michelle Bachmann --- to claim she helped
to raise these children. It should be noted that an unsubstantiated report from 2006 (in an overly snark piece) in Wonkette
claims that she received a $30 Dollar a day stipend for each child. The number most likely isn't correct but I am going to put it out there anyway.
So if Bachmann has fostered 23 children, let’s say for an average of five years, that would come out to a non-taxable $1,259,250,”
I would like to see the records on this, especially considering her husband has for a longtime been running a Christian counseling center. I would also like to see the timeline of these children because according to her testimony, 'If their parents, their biological parents would agree, if the social workers would agree, if there might be an option, whether it's a public school, a charter school, of which--my husband and I began a charter school in our city; it's the oldest charter school in the United States for K-12 at risk youth--or if they would choose a private school so that they could--if they changed homes they could still stay in the same school, so that they could have that sense of stability."
She resigned from that School board under allegations that she was trying to impose Christianity into the curriculum.
I believe that being a foster parent is a noble thing. My mother and Grandmother were both foster parents. My 2 uncles were adopted after being foster children. Some of our own 4F family members are currently helping the shape the life of a young person as foster parents. This is not an easy thing to do.
I have to question how stable it is -- if this is all true -- to have so many children in one house (I doubt that it was all 23 at one time) and how stable it was for the time they were there. I don't need to know who the children are unless they choose to come forward, but something literally and figuratively isn't adding up.