FLNW Community — I am so excited by this awesome giving opportunity! You have blown us away in the past by your generosity toward different causes. Read the details, dig into your stockpile, hit the school sales, get others involved, and help us support the kids in our local community. Thank you! Emily, FLNW
Guest Post by Jillana Goble
I am a foster and adoptive parent through the state of Oregon. Being a foster parent has brought more joy and more heartache than is possible to write about in a single post, so I won’t even attempt it. I do want to let you in, however, on something surprising I learned recently. After all these years of being both a foster parent and citizen that cares about what’s going on in my community, I had no idea what happens after a child is removed from their home and before he or she is taken to a new foster home.
Here’s the scoop: Up to 75% of children coming into foster care in the tri-county area (Washington, Multnomah & Clackamas counties) must wait in an office for 1-2 hours while a social worker calls to find them a suitable foster home placement. Most kids have a few items in a plastic garbage bag, but often times these kids have absolutely nothing to call their own. Understandably, this is a time of high anxiety for children as they’ve recently been removed from their home and are being moved to a new, unknown foster home. Caseworkers (who are truly doing the best job they can with very limited resources) are left scrambling to occupy the child in the DHS Child Welfare office.
As a community, we can come alongside these caseworkers and children. While we can’t change the sad circumstances these children have already experienced, we can at least provide a tangible source of comfort and hope for the journey ahead.
The notion of a Welcome Box is a simple one. While the child is waiting, the social worker hands the child a box of age-appropriate items to occupy their time while in the DHS office. This box is then theirs to keep and take with them into their new foster home. Since many children enter foster care with very few belongings, the psychological importance of owning a box full of nice things cannot be underestimated!
So, what goes in a Welcome Box?
Here are the principal items that EVERY box must have:
- One pad of drawing paper, one blank journal, or one coloring book (ideally a combination)
- At least one type of art supply (markers, colored pencils, crayons, etc)
- At least two non-perishable snacks (store bought pre-packaged individual servings of crackers, cookies, fruit snacks, granola bars)
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Flashlight with batteries (inexpensive at Harbor Freight or Wal-mart)
- Nightlight (perfect for a child to keep near them as they adjust to a new room in a new home)
Now, here’s the fun part! Please include at least 7 extra items to fill up your Welcome Box! Here are some age-appropriate suggestions:
How to Put Your Box Together:
1. Buy a photo storage box (Photo storage boxes are very sturdy and often come with fun designs. They can found at stores like Walgreens, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michaels, and Craft Warehouse.)
2. Fill up the box with the principal items from the list, as well as the items of your choosing that will engage a certain gender and age range (see labels below).
3. You are welcome to tape an encouraging message to the inside box lid such as: You are special. You are cared about. You matter. You are important. Made for you with love. No sealed messages or religious language, please.
4. Cut out the welcome box label, identify who the box is for, and tape the label to the narrow width side of the box (find instructions and labels to print here). Place a rubber band around your box.
5. Contact your county’s Welcome Box coordinator to find drop-off information!
Completed boxes are encouraged, but any individual supplies from the Principal list or Suggestions list are also welcome and will be used to put together Welcome Boxes that will be dropped off at DHS Child Welfare offices in the future.
If you are interested in participating in this on-going, year round project for local kids in foster care with your school, youth group or community organization, please contact your county’s Welcome Box Coordinator for more information.
Thank you for loving children entering foster care through your Welcome Box donations!
Please note that this giving opportunity is for Portland Metro DHS offices (Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Clark counties). We do not have contacts with other regional agencies, but I imagine that any child welfare office would welcome something like this. If you live outside the Portland Metro area, please contact Embrace Oregon or your local DHS office to see how you can serve foster children. Feel free to leave a comment with what you find out!