Okay so I could ask how many of you are foster parents and there may be a few of you out there, but I could ask instead, how many have you watch the TV show This Is Us? And I bet I would get a lot more people saying ME!!
So maybe it’s by personal experience, or maybe via family or friends, neighbors or coworkers, or even just a TV show- you may know a little about Foster Care.
Six months ago I knew nothing about foster care. That’s the truth.
But, life happens and I got a call on June 11th that changed my life. That phone call was from CPS letting me know that I had a family member in their custody who was on his way to foster care with strangers unless I wanted to take him in as an emergency kinship placement.
I mean is that even really a question?
Did I want to take my family member’s child in?! … Of course I did.
But it’s not as simple as just signing a paper and opening your front door.
There is such a lengthy legal process at hand when fostering a child and SO many hoops you have to jump through it’s absolutely extraordinary that people voluntarily commit themselves to this process in order to start families, in order to add to their family, or just to take in a kid who otherwise wouldn’t have a family.
The meetings, appointments, assessments, phone calls, court dates, doctors visits, therapies, and visitation dates overwhelm your calendar and you find yourself wondering how “normal” pre-foster life is going to fit into this NEW life...
Friends it’s a challenge at every turn.
Patience is something I’ve always struggled with and this is no exception.
This 18 month to 2 year process broken down into 6 month segments is a test of patience that I would have never chosen for myself, knowing my anxiety around the unknown- I hate the unknown- I always know what I want and how to get it. Always.
Knowing how to get something I want and not being able to get it, and being on someone else’s timeline to see what will ultimately happens with this child’s placement makes me crazy at times.
And I’m only at the beginning of this journey.
There are parents reading this on their seventh or eighth placement, who have spent hours in courtrooms seeing their foster loves reunify with their bio parents in the most bittersweet ways. And it’s heartbreaking no matter how this journey ends. Someone loses a child. Bio or Foster, it hurts no matter how you look at it. And I’ve been told, more than once, that if it doesn’t hurt you’re not doing it right. You should love those kids so much it hurts if they leave. They deserve it.
And we’re strong enough to take it. All of it.
So I don’t know how my situation will end. I don’t know if in a year I’ll still be a foster mom. I might be an adoptive mom. Or a former foster mom. I have no idea because it’s not my choice.
So what to do in the unknown?
Search for things that I CAN DO.
So upon joining a handful of foster parent online support groups I found out about foster closets. Other foster parents referenced them like they were so common. I looked into them and found over 35 in California, wow, I figured they must be all over.
So I started searching for one near me. And searching and searching.
I found that there was NOT ONE IN ALL OF SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY.
HOW?! We are the LARGEST County in the state of California and the LARGEST COUNTY IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY but we do not have even ONE Foster Closet providing basic clothing for foster children, most who enter this system with nothing besides the clothes on their back and shoes on their feet?! Unacceptable.
***By contrast, Inyo County is the second-largest county by area in California, after San Bernardino County. Almost one-half of that area is within Death Valley National Park. However, with a population density of 1.8 people per square mile, it also has the second LOWEST POPULATION density in California.***
My foster child came to me in 6 month clothing when he is 2 1/2 years old and wears 2T. He was wearing sandals which work most of the year in SoCal but what about when it does rain?
Fortunately my family can take care of the financial responsibilities that fostering brings. I also have an older son with lots of hand me downs. And an amazing support system of various Mom clubs & Mom friends that brought me bags of clothing and shoes for him immediately.
I was so fortunate in my experience, but what about everyone else?
This lead my heart to do what is obviously needed right here in my community-
open the FIRST Foster Closet here in San Bernardino County.
I have consulted with lots of other moms like me who started their own out of the same frustration I felt when I learned about this issue. They have advised and helped me to begin this process which is just starting up as we speak.
I can only hope that I can serve the many children in foster care who truly NEED these resources and alleviate that small financial aspect from foster families who are overwhelmed with so many other financial needs, especially during the holiday season.
If you feel led to help this cause please donate new (or very gently used) clothing in sizes NB-10 for boys and girls including socks and underwear.
Other small items are also being collected like diapers (all sizes), wipes, and hygiene items.
Unfortunately I cannot store large furniture items at this time.
Gift cards to various stores (Target, Walmart, etc) are also appreciated as we need to buy totes to store clothing and organize it by size and gender. We need hangers. We need baggies, tote bags, or backpacks because I will not give a child clothing in trash bag, NOT ever- I refuse.
If you know of any company or community building that would loan out a space for a permanent location for our closet based out of Rancho Cucamonga PLEASE let me know as a public location is needed for safe pick up and drop offs of items and for visits.
If you have further questions on how this works or what this is YouTube has great videos and information to explain at length the huge impact clean clothes that fit a child make as they transition in this extremely difficult situation.
If you know a Foster family in SB County please let them know about us and hopefully we can help- (Placement paperwork is REQUIRED, child does not need to be present).
Our long term goal is fill a store with clothing so foster children or their parents can come “shop” for a week’s worth of clothing - 5 shirts, 5 bottoms, pajamas, underwear, socks, and shoes.
Honestly, essentials for every child in who has been removed from their parents and their home with nothing besides maybe a trash bag or old clothing if they’re lucky.