May is National Foster Care Month, and foster care at the Jersey Shore has not stopped during this pandemic. Children are still being removed from abusive and neglectful homes and foster parents are still welcoming new children into their homes.

The Village of Children and Families, a local 501c3 nonprofit corporation helping Monmouth & Ocean County foster families, is looking for more space to house its growing donations of clothing, comfort items and toys.

These supplies are so very necessary, as many times a child in danger is pulled from their home in the middle of the night and arrives on the doorstep of a foster home, sometimes with nothing but the clothes on their back. Not only do they need supplies, but the foster parents often have to put out hundreds of dollars of their own money for these supplies until they can be reimbursed. That's where The Village comes in.

The Village  prepares care packages for newly placed foster children at the Jersey Shore called "Bright Side Bags", which are delivered directly to the foster family shortly after the child arrives.

The Village has been blessed with so many donations from generous people in our area. But with all of those new toys, blankets, personal hygiene products and clothing for infants, children & teens, they have now had to actually turn away some donations simply because they don't have the space to store it all.

So now this wonderful group needs your help. Do you have any spare storage space you can spare? The Village of Children and Families is looking for a space of at least 500 square feet. It would provide a central drop-off point for donations in the future, a place where they can sort items & fill the bags and also serve as a location for future support group meetings for licensed foster parents. They plan to offer ongoing support to the families, and would like to open the space up so foster families can regularly “shop” from the space, selecting clothing and other personal items with their foster children free of charge.

COVID-19 is having additional stressful effects on Foster Care. Here's why:

The local DCPP Offices closed in March and foster parents have been faced with a new reality of homeschooling, canceled therapies and video calls as the only way that children see their biological parents. This situation is stressful for most parents and children, but for children who are struggling with behaviors related to trauma, as most children in foster care are, the new normal is not easy.

The Village knew they had to do something, so they put a call out to their supporters asking for donations of games and other activities found on their Amazon Wishlist. The donations flooded in, a dozen boxes at a time, over 70 donations in just a few days. The Village co-founders Jacquie & Jackie spent a day putting together 24 Activity Bags full of games, puzzles, art supplies and toys for local Foster Families. Families with younger children received toddler toys, new shoes & sippy cups. These bags were packed specifically for twenty-four families, with a total of thirty 39 children. They were then delivered directly to the families' doorsteps so they didn't have to leave their homes.

This is only a fraction of the foster families in Monmouth & Ocean County, so The Village would like to put together another round of bags in the coming weeks.

Here's why foster families need your help. The average family spends between $12,000 and $14,000 on child-related expenses per year, The State of NJ provides between $8,400 and $10,800 per year per child in Foster Care. The foster parent receives this stipend as a reimbursement for the previous month, so the first month you have a child in your home you are required to spend your own money and then be reimbursed.

Foster parents often spend well over the monthly $700 to $900, especially in the first month when a child often needs a lot of items. The Village helps to bridge that gap by providing clothing, shoes and personal care items to last at least that first month, so that the parents can focus on the child's interests and offer them new experiences. When a child is removed from their home, the first hours and days spent in a new environment are fragile, broken and often traumatic. Many times, children arrive to foster homes on very short notice carrying little to no personal belongings.

In urgent situations, these belongings may be carried in shopping bags, stray boxes, and even trash bags. Suddenly the foster family is immersed in the responsibility of comforting the child, while also finding time to drive to the store and shop for necessities. The Village hopes to deliver basic necessities and comforts to these children and the families that open their homes to them.

The founders of The Village say, "We feel strongly that in the best and worst of circumstances, it takes a village to raise a child. We are that village."

For more information or to help, CLICK HERE.

The Village delivers clothing, basic necessities and comforts to children entering foster care and the families that open their homes to them. Donations are accepted, sorted and organized by size. Supplies are requested from foster parents or caseworkers and The Village then assembles a care package based on needs. The Bright Side Bag is then delivered directly to the foster family so they can focus on the child. The Village of Children & Families is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. All donations are tax deductible.

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