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.
Karen Bourbonnais says
I live in Clackamas County and would like to start making these Welcome Boxes. Who do I contact in Clackamas County for more information.
Barbara A Anderson says
I belong to a group that is interested in putting togather welcome boxes for foster kids I live in Aurora Co whom should we contact for what is needed and where we should deliver the boxes to. Thanks so much. Barbara
So nice article!
Amazing ideas! I might just suggest that pens, pencils, small toys/cars/balls, etc. are NOT toddler safe so should be replaced with toddler safe items. I love this concept though and will look to see if there is a program in my area! 🤓
your links to county coordinator do not work.
What a great idea, I will recommend this to our local offices her in NC! IF i they don’t have this, i will keep a few of these boxes in my home for new kids that I foster and let them know they are theirs to keep.
Pamela Kennedy says
I have been working on a similar package for my county (Calhoun County, AL). Haven’t had a great response. Need help getting started with this. I am a foster parent and would love to do this. Is there anyone in my area who can help? ….or maybe a counselor from your area? thanks.
I am interested in this AMAZING project and how it has gone! I am from Canada and would love to introduce a similar project. If you would be able to contact me it would be so greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance,
Hi Kaitlyn! Did you get anywhere with this? I am also in Canada and would like to start something like this! Please contact me if you are still interested and perhaps we can share ideas/resources!
I love your welcome box idea. We are doing something similar for foster children this Halloween with our benefit No Seed Left Behind which will provide pumpkins, carving sets, books and an opportunity to attend a live carving class. Would love your help in spreading the word: https://www.facebook.com/No-Seed-Left-Behind-A-Halloween-Benefit-for-Foster-Children-140650892948579/timeline/
Christal Huth says
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!
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
How exciting!!! Let us know how it turns out. Good luck.
How can I help? I live in Dayton, near McMinnville, OR.
Gayle Fosland says
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.
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?
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
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.