Baby formula’s consistent position on the top of shoplifting lists year after year brings into focus a problem faced by increasing numbers of families with a new baby as the economy tanks. The guys who wondered “how am I going to afford this” before their baby arrived are now losing part or all of their income and/or home. Now what? There’s no real answer for them, other than cutting back and trying to replace the lost income. If they don’t have luck on the income, things can get steadily worse.
With a baby screaming due to hunger and no money (infant formula runs $50 per week), it is understandable to be tempted at the moment to steal it from the local market. Don’t do it is the message we need to get to these men; not only does dad being arrested for shoplifting add to the nightmare for this young family, there are alternatives for him feeding his child and family.
Every community has a “safety net” for families falling off the economic ladder and they generally give priority to children. Dad will need to learn how to navigate this network, which can be very frustrating, particularly now when there is growing competition for limited resources and each community has a unique arrangement of resources and organizations involved.
If you are a new dad and may find yourself needing help here are some basic guidelines to follow:
- Look for support early when it becomes apparent you may need it; there may be waiting lists, eligibility period, etc. Connect with the local information and referral system (ask at a church, county welfare, a senior citizen center, food bank, etc.
- Start with a local food bank to supplement your family’s meal costs; they are also a wealth of information (talk to others in line and staff as well) for anyone accessing the “safety-net’ for the first time.
- Check into your family’s eligibility for food stamps (generally an income of less than $2000 per month for a family of 4); they pay for groceries from the market on an ongoing basis.
- Housing is tough due to limited resources; homeless shelters can be a temporary fix, but they are not set up for families. Subsidized housing may be available, but waiting lists are involved, so check it out early.
- Help with utility bills, especially with heating oil may be available.
- Temporary income assistance may also be available from your county welfare office.
- If you lose your health insurance, check out local health clinics for the uninsured for both treatment and information on insurance alternatives (like Medicaid for your child).
- Look for odd jobs to pay something – the man who does whatever is necessary to take care of his family is a man in its truest sense.
While each region is different, an example of the safety net from Los Angeles can be instructive of what to look for in your region.