Giving Opportunity: Welcome Boxes for kids entering foster care

by Emily from Frugal Living NW on August 23, 2012

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.

Enter Welcome Boxes (Go here for full details and county coordinators).

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!

This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.

{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

Christal Huth November 8, 2014 at 11:33 am

We are getting this going here in Los Angeles! They didn’t have anything like this in place and Olive Crest is taking us on to do it. Thanks for the amazing motivation and inspiration!

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Kate from Frugal Living NW November 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm

How exciting!!! Let us know how it turns out. Good luck.

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Tana September 6, 2014 at 8:05 am

How can I help? I live in Dayton, near McMinnville, OR.

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Gayle Fosland May 22, 2014 at 2:48 pm

This has been done using a backpack, small duffle bag or old suitcase instead of a box. The child keeps the backpack etc. which gives the kids a feeling of ownership; much better than a garbage bag. We asked for donations for the backpacks etc. on fb, church bulletins, school web sites etc. Response was TREMENDOUS! When word got out what we were doing also had donations of items to put in them. We also donated a couple of backpacks to our small law enforcement dept. and volunteer ambulance service as they use them on occasion.

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jessica October 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

My husband and I became foster/adoptive parents 3 months ago and found it very hard to get where we r today. We have tried for 13 years to have a baby with no luck. And we don’t have a lot of money so we never thought we could adopt. Now we have a chance but find it very difficult because of r lack of funds. As of right now we get no finacal help for the foster child we have now. And its not because we don’t work I work 7 days a week at my job and my husband works 5 days but we just can’t get ahead. So everyones probely asking y do we have a child if we are already struggling well its simpil really we want to helpa child and help our selves with r one dream. So my question is is there anywhere I can apply online to help with christmas and winter clothes and things like that just everyday things the children need?

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Kate from Frugal Living NW October 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I would ask your DHS worker that is assisting you to see if she knows of any resources through the state. Some DHS offices also partner with churches and might be able to connect you with those churches.

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LB December 10, 2012 at 9:09 am

If you are needy one of these boxes for your kids and your friends kids due to hardships, is there somewhere you can sigh up at to recieve one? I have been looking for place that help out with toys for my kids and my friends kids we are wondering if you can help?

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Angela August 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

This program provides boxes specifically for children entering foster care. They are stored and distributed through DHS offices. I suggest you contact your local Salvation Army to see what programs you may qualify for.

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LisaDee9 December 8, 2012 at 6:46 am

I would really love to do something like this here in the great Wenatchee area in WA state. Does anyone have a contact name or email for this area? This is such a great idea, I would love to spearhead it, get it going, collect them, deliver them, etc. Anything I could do. Even at this point we could make some welcome boxes, and include small wrapped gifts too for x-mas? Just another idea – please someone let me know. Thank you!!

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Elizabeth April 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Lisa Dee,
If you are still interested, I can get you contact info. I am in Portland now but I am from the Wenatchee area and have friends who work in social services. Email me at ehuber@spu.edu

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Heidi Snider October 22, 2012 at 9:24 am

May I please get a hard copy of the booklet for this project? I know that it is well past the deadline, but I am researching projects that we can do in my office that will have a local impact.

Thanks,
Heidi Snider

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SE MOM October 18, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Please send me the booklet. I’d love to coordinate friends to do this over the holidays.

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Shannon September 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

This sounds like a great project for my group this year. Please do send me the info!

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Emily Baylis September 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Hi Ivy, what area are you in? We have a drop site in each county as a long term drop off! Email me at emilykbaylis@gmail.com and I can connect you to the right person in your area!

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Ivy September 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Could you please send me the booklet? I would like to share it with our Girl Scouts and perhaps have them coordinate an effort in our area. Also, where can we drop the boxes going forward since the homes are no longer available.

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Howard September 6, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I didn’t have the time or patience to put a whole box together, so I filled up a big bag with 50 or more of the listed items and dropped it off tonight at one of the Tigard locations. Crayons, pencils, erasers, paper, granola bars, cheese crackers, decks of cards, toothbrushes, toothpaste, water bottles. Most of this stuff was free or cost pennies. Felt good to give it away, and I know it will be used and appreciated.

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Natasha September 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I know we are at the due date, but if there is anyone interested in being part of a group that puts these boxes together on a regular basis say every 2-3 months and lives in Clark County, please email me: n.bowyer@comcast.net . I live in Vancouver and would love to coordinate a group. Thanks, Natasha

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Tonya September 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I am interested. Please contact me with information.

Thanks!!

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crystal September 4, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I am down in Salem and would love to do this! Is there anything organized down here?

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JM September 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Me too!! I am in the Salem/Keizer area and would like more info to pass on to my Church’s women’s group to see if they would like to participate. Judmor@q.com

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Linda September 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I think this is a wonderful Idea! I have a group of ladies who are interested in doing this, and would like more information. Could you kindly send some more information via email? Thank you!

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Genevieve September 2, 2012 at 11:37 am

I love this and would like some more information! Can a welcome box info packet be sent to me at gen.morganstern@gmail.com? We are thinking about getting the Rotary involved in a project for this.

My mom used to be a CASA and she said the families often know nothing about the children, and don’t have any way to relate to them or connect to them when they arrive at the home. She always wished her kids could have “a book about me” that they can take with them to foster care to help the families learn about them.

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Laurie September 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I am very glad to see this happen. I usually fill a couple of shoeboxes for the Operation Christmas Child but always wondered to myself what about all the unfortunate kids here in the states.

Kudos to you and everyone who helped you!

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JoAnn Harrison August 31, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I would love to do this with my students this year. Please send me hard copy materials.

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Jillana Goble September 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Hi JoAnn,

If you email me at Jillanagoble@aol.com. I would be happy to send some hard copies of the booklet your way. Could you tell me how many you’d like as well as what county you are in please?

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K Girl August 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I would like a hard copy of the Welcome Box Booklet! I’m very interested in participating. Please send my contact info to someone that can contact me! Thanks a lot!

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Emily Baylis August 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm

What area are you located in?

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K Girl August 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I live in Salem, OR. But I am willing to bring the boxes or items needed to any location in Portland.

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Emily Baylis August 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

You can email me at emilykbaylis@gmail.com
I am one of the area coordinators and would love to help you get involved!

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K Girl September 1, 2012 at 11:42 am

I went ahead and emailed you on Thursday! Just to let you know you have a email in your inbox!

Emily Baylis September 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I didn’t receive your email! Would you mind trying again?
Emilykbaylis@gmail.com
Thanks!

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Lori August 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I would love a hard copy of the booklet. My mom and I just dropped off 2 boxes at Solid Rock Church and would like to do more boxes in the future. Thanks, Lori

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Emily Baylis August 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I saw the boxes when I was there today! Thanks Lori! What area are you located in? I have access to hard copies!

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Jennifer August 30, 2012 at 9:51 am

I have a church group interested in doing several boxes. I need more information though. Is it in the hard copy info? Like does the lid have to be closed on the box (if there is too much stuff to fit it on), does it have to be photo boxes or can it be large decorated shoe boxes? Many questions. Please direct me so I can help. Thanks.

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Emily Baylis August 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Hi Jennifer, what area are you located in? There are a few of us coordinating in the greater Portland area!

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Marge August 30, 2012 at 8:06 am

I’m taking some boxes by Solid Rock today. Would you please pass along my info to the coordinator? I’d like to participate regularly. Thanks.

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Lisa August 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I would love to participate. My son just turned 3 and I cannot even imagine a little soul (or any child) being in this situation. It breaks my heart as I’m reading this page… and at the same time I’m feeling grateful for all the amazing, wonderful people getting involved and those already making a difference.

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Michelle Vaartjes August 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I would love to do this but am currently out of town until the middle of September. Could you send me the hard copies of this & would it be possible to donate at a later date?

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Emily August 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Thanks for your interest in participating in the future! That would be awesome. I’ll pass your info on to Jillana, the Welcome Box coordinator.

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K Girl August 27, 2012 at 12:37 am

I’m very interested in this project!

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Alexander Villarreal August 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Having been a foster youth and again after being adopted, I have found it critical to have an anchor. An item the child finds value in. I was touched to hear Jillana’s heart and story. Her passion for the children of the City of Portland is a great blessing. Emily, thank you for allowing this on your site.

Former Staff Assistant to Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman

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Angela August 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Alexander!

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Melissa August 25, 2012 at 7:37 am

Emily, thanks so much!

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Melissa August 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Thank you for organizing this! I just made/dropped off a box today. Will this drive happen again later in the year. I’d love to do it again in a few months and let my book club know about it.

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Emily August 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Thank you so much, Melissa! The need is ongoing so I will pass your name onto Jillana, the Welcome Box coordinator. She could send you the official booklet, and you would be free to donate whenever it works for your group. Thanks again.

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Natasha August 28, 2012 at 8:59 am

Same thing here, I have a bunco group and would love to help out this cause throughout the year! Can you provide Jillana my info as well? Thanks!

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Tracy August 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

This is such a wonderful idea! I am a foster parent in the Seattle area. I organize a back to school drive and a holiday drive 2 times per year and donate to the Treehouse Wearhouse for foster kids.(http://www.treehouse4kids.org/services/wearhouse) It is located in Seattle and Foster kids can shop for free 5 times a year,plus a bonus trip at Christmas time. They are always in need of donations. I like the box idea because kids actually get them right away when they are desperately in need. Please send me the information on how to organize this in the Seattle area. I’d be happy to be a drop off point and coordinate with others in the area.

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Mer August 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Tracy,
I would be interested in talking with you more about the Seattle area. I am not able to be a drop off point but could recruit people to make the boxes merstinson@gmail.com

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Amy August 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I can’t even imagine what it would be like for a child to be removed from his or her home and have to wait in an office for a stranger to pick him or her up to be brought to a foster home. I realize they are being removed from an unsafe situation, but often that situation is all they’ve known. My heart is broken for these kids, and I am definitely doing this project. Thank you for this info!

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Charlene August 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm

When we picked up our 3 foster kids (siblings) they had been doing just that, waiting in the office for someone to pick them up and take them home. The kids had been given their own coloring book and a brand new box of crayons and they held onto those for a long time after. Someone gave them something BRAND NEW and that meant a lot to them.

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Natasha August 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm

This is amazing and I will definetely be dropping some boxes at the Vancouver location. I was wondering if heard anything from where we sent the troop boxes, is it okay to still send them to that location. I have some more I would like to send. :)

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Angela August 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Natasha: Email us and we’ll reply with the updated information.

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Jan August 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm

The Soroptimists of the Coos Bay Area do a project called “Backpacks for Kids” that are very similar. We do a community drive for donations in October and fill backpacks for each child taken into the foster care system. Each backpack has basic school and hygiene supplies as well as a plush lap blanket and stuffed toy. The backpack goes with the child so they can keep their personal items together. A CASA volunteer told us last year that the backpacks are a lifeline for kids that have lost everything.

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Tana August 24, 2012 at 9:05 am

This is a great idea, amd for those of us who have more free time on our hands, a potentially useful way to use it. I think this could snowball. Perhaps someone will be inclined to organize a phone list by state and county, that could be put into a link, here, as a permanent feature…

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michelle August 24, 2012 at 8:07 am

I have been a foster parent in Linn County for several years. This is an amazing project! Whatever I can do to help, please let me know!

Thank you!

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Mer August 24, 2012 at 7:41 am

I would like to participate but live in Seattle. Anyone know if something like this exists or Seattle. If not how it could be organized. Thanks

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Zach August 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Thanks again for doing this. I work at the Midtown office and have used a few already.

Zach~

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Tanya August 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm

I would love to do this!! Is there any in the Eugene/Springfield area?

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Julie August 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I am a fp in the Eugene/Springfield area and there is a similar project called Bags of Love.

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Jessica August 23, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Hi! I live in Tacoma, WA and am wondering if anything like this is going on up in my area?!
I would LOVE to participate!

Thank you!

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Jessica August 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm

ok nevermind. I read the little paragraph at the end.
I’ve tried calling our local DSHS before and it’s hard to get a hold of anyone. But this is a great idea and I will try to contact them again and ask about this.
Thanks for posting this. I believe foster kids need positive things to happen in their lives to help them through!
THANK YOU!

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Dianne August 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm

This sounds like an amazing project. I am the mission coordinator at my church and I would love to get our families involved. Please send me a hard copy of the information. Thank you for sharing this opportunity with all of us.

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Dana August 23, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Gosh, I would love to do this! Wish they had a drop off location a little closer to Tacoma, WA :(

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Esther Berrey August 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I am a Clark county FP and I have had so many kids come in with absolutely nothing. This is a great idea. I would also recommend socks and underwear in these boxes or as an additional donation if people are able. I have boxes of used clothes on hand for kiddos to use when they come into care but I prefer to provide new undies and socks and it can be difficult to run out to the store when an emergency placement comes in the middle of the night or during a hectic week. It can also be hard to keep these items on hand as I’ve had 5 placements this summer and have had to turn away 5 because our house was full. This is a huge need.

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Lisa August 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Esther, What a wonderful thing you are doing. I am in CC too and l would be happy to contribute socks and undies to your home when I find them on sale. Please email me so we can connect.

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christi August 23, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Can you please send me some hardcopy information on this. I would love to do some of these with my womens church group and another group of friends that I have. Thanks so much!

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Jodeen August 23, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I am a foster parent in Clark County. I would love to help out! Please e-mail me and let me know who I can contact here to help. We have been the recipients of much generosity for our kids. What a wonderful project you have taken on!!!

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Natasha September 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Hi Jodeen, I see you would like to get involved in helping with Welcome kits, I have already put mine together but plan to try to continue this effort throughout the year. If you are interested I think it would be great to put a group together. My email is n.bowyer@comcast.net feel free to email me, I also live in Vancouver.

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Teri August 23, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Is there a site in Hillsboro taking donations?

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Emily Baylis August 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm

My name is Emily Baylis and I am the Solid Rock/ Washington county/Beaverton/Hillsboro coordinator!
Please email me at emilykbaylis@gmail.com and I can get you involved!!

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christi August 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I love this! Thanks for making this connection. My kidos and I will work on these later this week. We love doing the Christmas shoeboxes through our church and this is another great way to encourage and make a small difference in the lives of hurting children.

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Rachael August 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Emily, Wondering if you could e-mail so I could talk to you about helping out. I am a member at Solid rock, and an Oregon foster/adopt mom. Anyway, I would love to help.

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Emily August 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Kelly & Rachael – Thanks for your interest! I will definitely pass on your information.

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Rachael August 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Thanks Emily!

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Emily Baylis August 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm

My name is Emily Baylis and I am the Solid Rock/ Washington county coordinator!
Feel free to email me at emilykbaylis@gmail.com and I can get you involved!!

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Kelly August 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I am teacher and would love to do this as a class project…..Please send me any hard copy materials you have!
Thank you
Kelly Bristol

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Rachel August 23, 2012 at 8:37 pm

What a wonderful idea and as social worker I can tell you first hand how great it would be to have something like this to provide to children who come into care. The address you have for the CPS/DSHS office in Vancouver is not correct though.

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Emily August 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Thanks for the comment!

All of the addresses (with the exception of 2 churches) are private homes that are just collecting the boxes.

The boxes/individual donations will then be collected and distributed to DHS Child Welfare offices throughout the tri-county area.

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SaraW August 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Rachel – I would love to make welcome kits for Vancouver foster kids. How can I get in touch with you?
Sara

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Natasha September 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Hi Sara W,
I see you would like to get involved in helping with Welcome kits, I have already put mine together but plan to try to continue this effort throughout the year. If you are interested I think it would be great to put a group together. My email is n.bowyer@comcast.net feel free to email me, I also live in Vancouver.
Natasha

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Ali_R August 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm

My mother put me in foster care “to teach me a lesson”. Long story. I was handed a tooth brush, tooth paste and a comb and was so grateful for that. Unfortunately I was having my period and I was too embarrassed to say anything as that was a taboo topic at home. I had nothing of my own other than the clothes on my back.

After that first emergency foster home and then another long term foster home, I ended up in a group home and started to figure out my life was pretty dysfunctional. I am now far, far away from those days (44 y.o. now) and as I look at my beautiful children, I cannot imagine the heart of a woman that could treat a child the way I was treated.

I would think DHS would welcome some feminine hygiene products in their packs. I am thousands miles away from Washington County now, otherwise I would build so many care packages. I am motivated to see if my local children’s services offers this.

This is very important to the children, trust me. I know.

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Angela August 23, 2012 at 9:04 pm

That’s a great idea, Ali! And thanks for sharing your story. Please let us know if you are able to hook up with your local agency.

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Jane August 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I have SO many extra toothbrushes/toothpaste and snacks. I don’t have extras of the rest in my stockpile and am on a VERY tight budget. Would they welcome donations of only specific items? Or do they just want the completed boxes? I doubt they would turn away free items, but I don’t want to provide it if it’ll be more trouble for them. I realize that that would make DHS responsible for putting the boxes together. And I bet lots of people have the same items as I do…

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Emily August 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Yes, bring any items from the list to the drop site near you! That would be awesome. We will add to it to make completed boxes before they are dropped off to DHS. Thank you so much!

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Marge August 23, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Thank you for the information. We were foster parents a few years ago when we lived in TN, but have not gotten approved here. I will be happy to help this way!

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Nichole August 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I am interested in participating! Thank you!!
– Nichole

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Bethany August 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I have worked with many foster children in shelter settings and another great way to help is providing suitcases to DHS offices. These kids’ belongings are thrown in trash bags every time they move giving them the message that their stuff is trash even though it us all they have to remind them of home. I can’t tell you the kind of impact these things have on these children. This is a great thing to provide for these kids.

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leeann August 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm

OMG!, are you kidding me right now I can’t even see thru my tears to read the rest of the post…..Going to the store tomorrow to find boxes to build :)

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Nikole August 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

You and me both. Foster children are so near and dear to my heart, my friends do foster care and currently have 8 loving children I wish I could do more but I will for sure be doing boxes and if I cannot afford full boxes definitely donate supplies!

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