The Foster Dignity program partners with individuals and organizations in our community to provide essentials for children in the foster care system.
Foster children are often moved from home to home, with only a few belongings in a trash bag. It can be hard for foster children to explain to other kids at a new school that you didn’t forget your backpack, it’s that you don’t have one.
With your support, we have been able to help more than 7,000 children across Western Massachusetts. This important work eases the challenges of life in foster care by providing what others might take for granted. It could be things as simple as a backpack with school supplies, a treasured stuffed animal to cuddle with when moving to a new placement, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a warm jacket, or a holiday gift.
Foster youth and young adults have additional needs to help level the playing field and improve their opportunities for success. We have helped with funding for school trips, athletic fees and equipment, and apartment essentials for young people who have aged out of foster care.
Help meet basic needs
There are many ways for individuals and organizations to extend a hand to children in need of essential items.
Foster Dignity was born out of the efforts of Northampton resident Karen Bellavance-Grace and her former wife.
They were foster parents to nine kids, and had first-hand experience with children arriving at homes with all of their belongings in a trash bag. They set out to change this problem by collecting suitcases and backpacks and distributing them to kids at what was then DSS. Bags were collected in the former Northampton Pride & Joy store that they owned.
Since 2009, many wonderful community members and organizations have spearheaded drives and other efforts to support the Foster Dignity program.
“Thank you so much for the new backpacks. We gave them to four brothers and sisters who had just been interviewed about their abuse by their parents. Each of them took out their blankets and stuffed animals and just curled up with them in the car. What a help to these little kids who needed some measure of comfort after a grueling day and on their way to a foster home.”
– Employee, the Child Abuse Unit at the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office
“You should have seen the smile on his face when I told him he could take Driver’s Ed! Thanks for making this happen. He’s such a good kid, and this really made both of our days!”
– Employee, Department of Children and Families
“There would be no way I could stay in college without Foster Dignity. It’s been a lifesaver. I hope I can teach my daughter how important education is.”
– Young single parent and former foster child
FOSTER DIGNITY WISHLIST
How Can You Help?
We are always seeking the following essentials, clothing items, and gift cards. We are only able to accept new/unused donations.
- School Supplies (pencils, notebooks, crayons/colored pencils, folders, pencil cases)
- Comfort Items (small fleece blankets, stuffed animals)
- Personal Hygiene Items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, baby wipes, diapers, body wash, tampons, etc.)
Clothing (Infants to Teens)
- Nighttime: sleepers, pajamas, footed onesies, blankets
- Under layers: socks, underwear, undershirts, bras
- School & Casual: sweatshirts/hoodies, short and long-sleeve shirts, athletic pants, jeans, leggings
- Formal: dresses, skirts, dress pants and button-down shirts, suit jackets, dress socks and shoes, ties, jewelry
- Outerwear: snow and rain coats, hats, gloves, scarves
- Footwear: sneakers, boots, flip-flops, athletic shoes
You can also support Friends of Children by shopping through our Amazon Smile program. The Amazon Smile program donates 5% of all of your purchases to our cause. You can order your day to day items and holiday gifts here and support Friends of Children while you shop!
As a lifelong social worker, I have become keenly aware of the needs and challenges of children in the foster care system. And, as a parent, I know how difficult it can be to navigate the road to adulthood even when resources are available.
When there is no support available, basic needs go unmet and kids have nowhere to turn.
– Susan Karas, Board President
We are deeply grateful to the organizations and individuals who make this program a success.
We have received gestures of goodwill from so many, such as senior citizens who pack bags for children, Girl Scout troops making homemade blankets, faith-based groups gathering essentials, and companies like Land’s End, who donated a 1,000 duffle bags to Friends of Children.