When we first heard about Welcome Boxes for kids entering foster care, we knew the Frugal Living NW community would be ready to help. We were right. Tons of you jumped in with both feet, donating items, filling boxes, and spreading the word. We were excited by your response and the chance to help kids right here in the Portland Metro area. There is an ongoing need for Welcome Boxes; the goal right now is 4,000+/year for the tri-county area alone! Check out this post if you would like to get involved.
The Welcome Box Initiative has jump-started some amazing things, such as visitation room makeovers and social worker support, at the nine Child Welfare offices in the Portland Metro area (Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington). These three counties hold almost half of the state of Oregon’s foster children.
Welcome Boxes are also changing the culture of kids entering foster care at the one child welfare office in Clark County (Vancouver, Washington). While these efforts are starting to spread to other counties (Welcome Boxes are launching in Marion County soon!), organizers want to make sure that relationships are established and bases are covered before expanding these services.
Regardless of how you feel about DHS and the foster care system, the fact is that they are understaffed, overworked, and underfunded. These kids, who have already gone through so much loss and trauma, should not have to pay the price for this. We can’t change what these kids have already experienced, but we can communicate a message of hope and care moving forward. We need your help!
This year, our Christmas Tree Project focus will be collecting toys, crafts and snacks for kids in foster care. These items are simple and inexpensive to us (especially for all of you amazing couponers and deal hunters!), but are desperately needed and important to kids going through these stressful times of transition. We have so much; it is time to give back.
Are you ready? Let’s do this!
All of the toys you donate will be split, based on need, among the ten DHS offices in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Clark counties. Your toy donations will go to children as Christmas gifts or to stock the visitation rooms in DHS offices. The visitation rooms are used regularly by hundreds of children each week. Angela and I had the opportunity to tour several Multnomah County visitation rooms at two different offices. Currently, the majority of them have some sad combination old books and broken toys. We wouldn’t be exaggerating by using the word pathetic to describe them.
Stocking these visitation rooms with new, quality toys would be a big step in the right direction and a huge help to both families and staff. Simple, interactive toys and crafts encourage and teach biological parents how to play with their children. This would be something a child and parent could bond over and complete together during an hour visit.
Any toy sets (like LEGOs and other toys with pieces) or craft kits will be stored separately, and the children will be able to select and play with these one at a time. Toys or games that appeal to a wide range of ages (including teenagers) would be greatly appreciated.
Donation guidelines and needs:
- New board books
- New toys — Please focus on high quality toys that encourage interaction between parent and child. Toys for any age child is needed. Because these toys will most likely be played with hundreds of children over many years, please select items that are built to last.
- Craft kits and art supplies — Please select things that can be completed in less than 45 minutes without much mess (no glitter?). You are welcome to purchase pre-packaged kits (like the sets sold at JoAnn’s or Michael’s) or to buy larger packages of craft items and assemble individual kits yourself in baggies — just make sure you include some general directions (or include a picture of the completed project) and label them with the ages the activity is appropriate for. This would be a fun family activity. You can also donate general art supplies — crayons, markers, paper, coloring books, glue, scissors, stickers, etc.
- Locking, lidded plastic containers for toys or crafts with smaller parts
- No stuffed animals, electronic toys or used items
The Learning Palace has graciously offered us an exclusive printable coupon that will get you 25% off one regularly-priced item to help with this giving campaign. The Learning Palace is THE place in the Portland Metro area to find high quality learning toys and activities — Playmobil, Melissa & Doug, Thomas the Train, books, puzzles, art kits, everything you can imagine!
Just click this coupon and print it directly from our site. The Learning Palace has locations in Gresham, Vancouver, Beaverton, Portland (by IKEA) and Clackamas.
There is also a great need for Child Welfare offices to be stocked with snacks, both for kids first visiting the office while waiting for their initial foster care placement and those visiting family during their supervised visits. In the tri-county area alone, DHS workers facilitate visitation between 3,100 foster children and their biological families! The visitation time is often a crucial step in repairing relationships and keeping parents motivated to do the hard work needed to be reunited with their children.
Obviously, this can be a difficult time for everyone involved. It doesn’t help to have a hungry toddler near lunchtime or a ravenous teen coming straight from school. Providing snacks is a simple way we can make a difference for these kids and families.
Donation guidelines and needs:
- Individually wrapped, non-perishable snacks (granola bars, fruit snacks, crackers)
- Individually packaged applesauce, fruit or pudding cups
- Individual juice boxes or bottled water (100% fruit juice is best)
- Boxes of plastic spoons
- No snacks within 1-2 months of their expiration date
While providing toys and snacks may seem insignificant, these are just two ways we can help change the culture of foster care and send the message that vulnerable kids in our community are important. Your donations will also send a message of hope and encouragement to social workers who carry a heavy load as they provide care for these kids.
We are accepting donations at the following locations December 12-18:
Steve’s Pump Service, Inc. in Damascus
24300 SE Hoffmeister Road, 97089
Open Monday-Friday, 8 am – 4 pm
Degrees of Chic in Canby
1477 SE 1st Ave Suite 109, 97013
Open Monday 12-5 pm, Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am-6 pm
NW Self Storage–I-5 Mini Storage in Wilsonville
29722 SW Boones Ferry Rd, 97070
Open daily, 9 am – 6 pm (closed 2-3 pm)
Davis Law Offices, LLC in SW Portland (John’s Landing)
4380 SW Macadam Ave. Ste. 510, 97239
Open Monday-Friday, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
322 NE 82nd Ave, 97220
Open Monday-Friday, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
Pipsqueak Resale Boutique in Vancouver (Fisher’s Landing)
16111 SE McGillivray Ste B, 98683
Open Monday-Friday, 10 am – 6 pm, Saturday-Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
Pipsqueak Resale Boutique in Vancouver (Orchards)
14602 NE Fourth Plain Road Ste B, 98682
Open Monday-Friday, 10 am – 6 pm, Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm
If you have a business or office that has regular business hours and would be willing to be a drop-off location for this giving campaign, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are specifically looking for locations in Vancouver, Beaverton/Hillsboro, Gresham and Clackamas/Milwaukie/West Linn.
I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together! Let’s dig deep. Thank you!
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