Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., makes her formal announcement to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Monday, June 27, 2011, in Waterloo, Iowa. Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, will continue her announcement tour this week with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (AP)

What would President Bachmann mean for foster children?

She boasts of helping to raise 23 of them, but her budget priorities would make it harder for others to do the same


Natasha Lennard
July 6, 2011 7:07PM (UTC)

Talking Points Memo Wednesday points out a potential contradiction in Michele Bachmann's line on foster care. The Minnesota Republican has long touted her fostering record -- having cared for a total of 23 children -- as a family values credential. But as TPM reports "Critics warn that her zeal for budget cuts threatens vulnerable youngsters" of the very sort she has fostered:

Advocacy groups warn that Bachmann's proposals to shrink government would have profound effects on child welfare services.The House Republican budget, which Bachmann voted for, would cut the program's spending by $1 trillion over the next decade and give states freedom to lower benefits and raise eligibility requirements. Foster children, who automatically qualify for Medicaid benefits, make up a tremendously disproportionate amount of its spending, especially on mental health services. Bachmann likely understands these difficulties better than anyone: all 23 of her foster children were teenage girls suffering from psychiatric disorders. In addition, her husband's therapy clinic has taken in over $137,000 in Medicaid funds to help treat low-income patients.

Bachmann's support for Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan and her voting record on unemployment benefits also strike some experts as at odds with her claims of concern for at risk youngsters. "Experts say aid like food stamps and unemployment benefits are crucial to prevent kids from falling into crisis," reports TPM, noting that Bachmann voted twice against extending unemployment benefits and the the Ryan plan would cut the food stamp program by $127 billion over the next decade.

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Bachmann's fostering record has come under scrutiny in recent months -- although she often references the 23 teenage girls who were at one time or another in her care, details about the children or their length of time with the Bachmanns remains murky. And although it is generally understood as an act of benevolence on the Tea Party darling's part to have cared for so many foster kids, Wonkette did point out in 2006 that Minnesota pays families $30 a day, tax free, per foster child. "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," Wonkette noted. But it seems a stretch to charge that Bachmann fostered for the money.

It is worth noting, nonetheless, that her enthusiasm to provide care for young people sits at odds with her hawkish fiscal politics.

"Of course, the fact that she's a foster care parent herself is very commendable," Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition for Human needs, told TPM. "But it's not the same as having a systemic view of whats needed."

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Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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