Giving Foster Children a Bed to Call Their Own

For The Seventh Generation has provided over 100 beds and cribs to foster families in need

Sleeping SilviaVinas

When people are expecting a child through pregnancy, the key word is, “expecting.” Even people who are surprised by a pregnancy have nine months to get the necessities together: diapers, clothing, and a crib for the baby to sleep in.

Foster children, on the other hand, are frequently unexpected: family members get a call at midnight telling them that a young relative needs a home right now.

At the same time, Michigan’s foster care system requires foster parents to provide the basics, and provide them soon – frequently within days – but the system doesn’t provide the funds to make the larger purchases possible.

 

Which brings us to For The Seventh Generation’s bed program for foster children.  Since January of 2014, the generous support of our funders has allowed us to provide 122 twin beds, 33 cribs, 33 bunk beds, and 4 full beds for foster families in need.

Sometimes, these beds and cribs made it possible for siblings to stay together. Others, a new bed or crib was the difference between a child living with family members or with complete strangers while in foster care. And in other cases, we helped make it possible for children in foster care to go back home to their parents.

After all, foster children are dealing with enough already. They deserve a bed of their own. They also deserve to stay with their siblings, and whenever possible to stay with relatives or family friends who already know them.

Most of all, when their parents – or new, adoptive parents are ready – to take them home, “our” children in foster care shouldn’t have to wait until there’s enough money to buy a bed for them to sleep in.

With all of this in mind, we’d like to thank the funders who have helped “our” foster children sleep snug in their own beds night after night:

These funders purchased beds and cribs for our foster children. Meanwhile, Gardner White and Hayneedle provided significant discounts so our bed program budget went further. And volunteers from Morse Moving (along with many other, individual volunteers) have provided the “muscle” we needed to get these beds delivered.

For The Seventh Generation has provided almost two hundred beds in just under two years, but the need is still great.

Virtually every day and night, foster parents – and people who never expected to be foster parents – are being contacted by foster care workers asking if they can take in a child.

And virtually every week, we get a request for a bed or a crib so a foster child can have a home.

Volunteers Cullen Christopher Dana Realms Ena Ausbrooks help get new beds to foster children, October 2015

Volunteers Cullen Christopher Dana Realms Ena Ausbrooks help get new beds to foster children, October 2015

We’ll continue looking for grants to fund this program – in the meantime, though, please make a gift of $50, $100, $150 or more to help us purchase beds and other emergency items for Detroit-area foster children. Your support will make a huge difference in the life of a child!

FTSG Announces: 1,000 Detroit-Area Foster Children, Teens, & Families Served in 2014

The headline says it all – thanks to you, For The Seventh Generation was able to support more than 1,000 foster children, teens, and families in 2014.

ThankYouKids

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 115 served through our website, which works by matching online requests by foster care workers with the goods and services offered by members of our community
  • 303 foster children and families benefited not just from the 2014 Holiday Bazaar event, but from gifts we collected and distributed both before and afterwardvolunteers helping childrenEdit
  • 203 foster children and teens received winter coats courtesy of the Detroit and Grosse Pointe Rotary Clubs’ Operation Warm
  • 155 teens in foster care were able to go to Prom thanks to your contributions to the 2014 PromPalooza
  • 172 young ones received books to read over the summer through the Busy Bee Book Fair
  • 70 “shoppers” visited our Help Closet to pick up free items ranging from clothing to bedding — much of it brand new
  • 50 permanent wards of the court in Wayne County received orthodontic screening thanks to the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Dentistry and the Detroit Health Department.
Meritor helped by clothing for foster teens in 2014!

Meritor helped by clothing for foster teens in 2014!

These miracles didn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, FTSG is really just the conduit – we alert our wider community when foster children and teens are in need. But you are the ones who come forward to meet those needs.

And come forward you did – as businesses, organizations, and individuals. It is with deep gratitude that we send our thanks to:

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    • Every business and individual who sponsored the 2014 In Seventh Heaven. Grants will fund specific programs and items, but In Seventh Heaven keeps the doors open and the lights on (so to speak).
    • Shirley Roseman, who has literally taken For The Seventh Generation to the next level. Not only was she the Superwoman behind our Help Closet, but Shirley also pioneered our Holiday Bazaar, PromPalooza, and Busy Bee Book Fair events.
    • Individual businesses like S+R Event Rental, Kids’ Planet Resale, Costco, McDonald’s, Roy O’Brien Ford, Milano Bakery & Cafe, Better Made Snack Foods, Meritor, Happy Belly Bakery (and so many more), which provided individual requests and/or made one or more of our events possible.
    • Detroit-area nonprofits We’ve already mentioned the Detroit and Grosse Pointe Rotarians. But our area’s foster children have also benefited from the generosity of groups like Main Street League in Northville, the Foster Care Alumni of America/Michigan Chapter, the Detroit Optometric Society, the Joy of Jesus Christian Center, Bethel Lutheran Church, St. James Lutheran Church, the Brightmoor Tabernacle of Novi and Hospitality House of Walled Lake, and so many more.

In addition, we received grants from the Detroit Industrial School, the TJX Foundation, the Young Woman’s Home Association, and the Village Club Foundation – grants which allowed us to purchase desperately-needed beds.

  • …and, of course, we can’t forget the Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care or the Samaritan Center, which hosts our Help Closet without charging a cent.

Finally, though, we can’t say enough about individuals, like you, who have come forward to change the life of a child or teen in foster care. Here are just a few of the many, many people who did extraordinary things for “our” kids last year:

    • When our teens needed summer clothes, Mary Snell, the Minister of Family Life at 5.22.14 St. James Clothing Donation Shirley and Mary SnellSt. James, was one of many who came forward to be sure they were able to step out in style! (And speaking of the Spring/Summer clothing drive, let’s not forget the kickball tournament organized by Sara Richards and Shawn Franklin!)
    • Elyse Heidlebaugh purchased brand new beds and cribs, came through for two high school seniors and made it easier for a college student to move in, and was an all-round angel in so many ways, including contributing two posts to the FTSG blog
    • Jennifer Hichme has been another force of nature for “our” kids in foster care, purchasing beds and contact lenses, donating bedding, and more.

Kathy McComb of Dearborn purchased a brand new crib for a baby entering foster care. Thank you, Kathy!

  • When we posted an urgent need for a crib, Kathy McComb went out and bought a brand new one the very same day – and in doing so, made sure that an abused toddler and her baby sister were able to stay together with a loving relative in foster care.
  • …and we can’t forget Melissa Turner Covell, Christina Delpizzo, Jennifer H., Sharon M., Robert Thomas, Saba B., Debbie M. and her daughters Hannah and Shannon, all of whom stepped forward in a big way with donations of goods, services, or cash to help make miracles happen.

Looking Ahead – Serving Even More Foster Children & Teens in 2015

Now that it’s 2015, look for big changes here at For The Seventh Generation designed to serve even more foster children, teens and families:

Soon we’ll be introducing you to the team that’s come together to manage the Help Closet, facilitate donations, and more. (Why yes, we need a team to fill Shirley’s shoes – and no one who knows her would be surprised!)

We’re gearing up for this year’s In Seventh Heaven and PromPalooza … and we’ve got a special surprise for both that you’ll be hearing about this week!

So hold on to your hats, and get ready for a HUGE 2015!

Help ‘Our’ Kids Stay With Their Families While in Foster Care

By Elyse Heidlebaugh

Imagine going through this as a child or teen: Through no fault of your own, you’re being taken away from your parents – and, quite possibly, separated from your siblings. You’ve got nothing but the clothes on your back and possibly a hastily-packed trash bag with a few of your things. And a strange adult, whom you may or may not even know well, tells you that you’re going into foster care.

But what does that mean? Where are you going, and who will you live with? Just what does “foster care” mean for the Michigan children and teens who are effectively being raised by the state?

Children and teens being placed in foster care aren’t the only ones with questions – a lot of us adults aren’t clear about what’s involved either.

So let’s take a look at the four kinds of foster care placement. And then talk about what we

A bed or crib can be the difference between living with your family or a stranger while in foster care!

A bed or crib can be the difference between living with your family or a stranger while in foster care!

can do to support the best possible option – family placements.

1. “Traditional” Foster Families

For most people, the term “foster care” invokes images of strangers opening up their homes to kids in need, or “non-relative foster family placement.” However, only 32% of Michigan’s foster kids enter into this form of care.

This may seem like a great outcome. After all, the people who sign up to be foster parents must really love children, right? Well, of course – but the fact is, the situation is complicated:

First, imagine being sent to live with strangers and told that you need to follow their rules.

These people, no matter how kind, may not live in the same neighborhood as your birth parent/s – so everything is strange to you.

Your foster parents may or may not be the best “fit” for you. You may be a tomboy and be sent to live with adults who have strict ideas about gender roles, for example. Or maybe they don’t practice the same religion, or hate the foods you’re used to, or any number of other factors that leave you feeling very much like a total outsider.

Finally, your first placement will almost certainly not be your last. In other words, you’re going to have to get used to new adults, new rules, and new everything else over and over again.

Sound depressing? Wait – because, if you go into foster care at age 16 or older, you may well be one of the sixteen percent of Michigan foster teens (Thirty-six percent nationally) who end up being placed in a group home with anywhere from seven-twelve other children.

Group Homes

While the vast majority of adults who own, manage, and operate group homes for foster children and teens are wonderful people, the fact remains that such a placement is about as far from a family upbringing as a child can get.

Try to imagine this setting: You’re a teenager who’s been taken away from your family and sent to live, not with another family, but with an ever-changing group of strange adults and children in an institutional setting. Not only does living this way make you really different from the other kids at school — it also means that when you “age out” you’re even less likely to have any kind of supportive safety net.

“Other” Placements

And what happens if you decide you’re tired of living with different foster families or in an institution? In Michigan, that means you’re likely to end up as one of the seventeen percent of foster children/teens living in what’s called “other” placements.

HomelessTeenSmallOn the scariest end of the scale, you may have run away and are couch-surfing or worse, living on the street. Or, you may be relatively lucky and have an independent living situation; meaning that you’re on your own but receive some financial support from the state.

If you haven’t run away from foster care and aren’t in an independent living situation, chances are you’ve found the best possible world – you’re living with a family that’s eager to adopt you.

In other words, most of the scenarios faced by Michigan’s foster children, and particularly teens in foster care, are challenging to say the least! They involve a revolving-door of strange care-givers and all too often grow up to face the outcomes we’ve all heard about – an inability to complete school or find a decent job, homelessness, and incarceration.

Now, let’s imaging something drastically different:

The Best Foster Care Option – ‘Kinship-Relative’ Foster Care

In this scenario you’re still being taken away from your home by a social worker. But now, the social worker is driving you somewhere that’s already familiar to you.

And when you arrive, a loving family member is there to greet you.

Yes, you’re still in foster care – but your family identity is intact. You feel safe because Black mother with childyou know your new “parent/s” already know and love you. Best yet, while they may live differently than you’re used to, you probably already have an idea of what they expect of you.

When you age out, you’re also far more likely to receive ongoing support from your foster family — because, after all, you’re family.

Currently Michigan finds family placements for just thirty-six percent of our children and teens in foster care. We can and must do better.

And that’s where you and I come in.

How?

By donating the items that families need when they get that last-minute call saying that one of their youngest members needs a new place to stay.

Specifically, I’m talking about children’s and teens’ beds, and cribs.

For one thing, a bed or crib can determine whether a foster child or teen ends up with a family or complete strangers. And for another, ask yourself what would make you feel most secure – sleeping on a couch or air mattress, or having a bed of your own?

The challenge is that beds and cribs are expensive. Few families can afford to go out and purchase one or more of them on the last-minute notice that is so frequently the case when a child or teen is taken into foster care.

For The Seventh Generation faces ongoing, urgent requests for beds and cribs from foster care workers who desperately want to place foster children and teens with loving family members. I am among the many people and institutions who have come together to provide our most vulnerable children with a place to sleep, but we need your help to continue to filling this essential need!

Elyse, Shirley Roseman, and the new children's beds that Elyse donated last summer. Thank you, Elyse!

Elyse, Shirley Roseman, and the new children’s beds that Elyse donated last summer. Thank you, Elyse!

Please consider visiting the “current needs” link on For The Seventh Generation’s website. I guarantee you’ll see several requests for beds and/or cribs! Ask yourself if you can provide a bed, crib, mattress, or bedding for a child or teen in foster care today.

And if the entire cost of a bed or crib is too much, please make a financial contribution that FTSG can use to purchase these and other essential items.

After all, home is where the heart is – not where the bed is. With your help, we can make sure metro Detroit’s foster children get to keep all three together. Let’s follow their hearts so that in what every way possible, we can get and keep “our” kids at home.

Source: acef.org “data snapshot on foster care placement” (2011)

Elyse HeidlebaughElyse Heidlebaugh is a long-time FTSG supporter who is definitely walking her talk –among other things, she has personally purchased several brand-new beds and cribs for foster children! We’re very grateful for everything Elyse has done for “our” kids, including her wonderful blog posts.

Meet FTSG “Super Donor” & Volunteer Elyse Heidelbaugh

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She Gives Her Time, Her Money and Her Passion —  and Starting This Month She’ll be Blogging About “Our” Foster Children

For The Seventh Generation lets me ask what our foster Elyse Heidlebaughchildren want, and by doing that it helps me extend my motherhood.

Elyse Heidelbaugh of Berkley has been an FTSG donor and volunteer for about a year now — and what a donor! She has purchased brand new beds and cribs for metro Detroit children in foster care; donated to last year’s School Uniform Drive; and most recently, Elyse made it possible for a young girl in foster care to join a cheerleading team.

Why does she do it?

I would never look at my daughter and ask, ‘What’s the bare minimum you need to survive?,” and be content with that. I’m always thinking, ‘How can I make you happy, and what do you want?’ For The Seventh Generation lets me ask what our foster children want, and by doing that it helps me extend my motherhood.

Of course, given that she’s a full-time parent and in school, some people might also ask HOW she does it.

Elyse, who found FTSG while doing an Internet search for a charity to be involved in, says that our organization’s flexibility makes it easy for her to be involved, even with a toddler at home and homework to get done.

I didn’t want to just write a check and be done — I wanted to do something more personalized for foster children, and I love going out and buying the things they need. What I really like about For The Seventh Generation is that you get to pick which opportunities you want to help with.

For The Seventh Generation is the only organization with the flexibility to let me be involved the way I want to be involved. With my little girl at home I can’t commit to volunteer specific hours or days, but (Help Closet Coordinator) Shirley asks what I want to do and then works to make that happen.

Elyse, who is originally from Sydney, Australia, has been in the US for seven years. Elyse’s husband, Mike, works as a resident in emergency medicine. Elyse was working as an assistant preschool teacher while studying at Wright State University when both her work and her education were happily interrupted with the birth of their first child, Ella, in February 2013.

But being a stay-at-home mom is just part of the great work Elyse is doing; in addition to supporting For The Seventh Generation she has returned to her Theology studies.

Finally, we asked Elyse why she was drawn to help foster children given that, before finding For The Seventh Generation, she had never met anyone connected with the foster care system either in Australia or here in Michigan.

“The birth of my daughter really busted my heart open,” she told us. Parenthood doesn’t stop at your own child; any one of these children in foster care could be one of ours.”

Elyse has become so passionate about foster children, in fact, that she reads “everything I can get my hands on” and as a result has learned a lot about foster children, families, teens — and the foster care system as a whole. When we heard that, we naturally asked if she would be willing to blog for For The Seventh Generation about the rules, regulations, and challenges “our” kids face — and she said yes!

With that in mind, look for Elyse’s posts on the third week of every month, starting this August 20 when she’ll share how helping foster children can be the most efficient way of helping society. Until then (and always), please join us in thanking Elyse for everything she has done, and continues to do, for “our” kids!

Do you have a foster care story to share?

Are you a former or current (over 18) foster child or teen, a foster parent, or a foster care worker? If so, we welcome your story! Our goal is to educate as many people as we can about about the world of foster care in SE Michigan, our state, our country and beyond. If you’re interested please contact Dawn Wolfe for details by posting a message on our Facebook page. Dawn will be happy to interview you or to help you write your post. And don’t worry, she’s a gentle editor!

Weekly Wish List — Books & Beds (and cribs!) For Foster Kids Edition:

This week (and through June 13) we’re collecting books — particularly books for teens — teensreadingby circulationfor our Busy Bee Book Fair For Foster Kids, which will take place on June 18 as part of Wayne County DHS’s “Summer Safety Extravaganza.”

In addition, we’re facing a critical, ongoing shortage of beds and cribs. These items are vitally important and can make the difference between a foster child being placed with a family member or with a total stranger.

(New/nearly-new books, beds & cribs only, please.)

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If you can help please contact Help Closet Coordinator Shirley Roseman at helpcloset@detroitlawyer.org — and please tell your friends!