Monday, April 22, 2013

Grace's Closet Aims To Serve As a True Goodwill Ambassador For Foster Children And Families

Will The Real Goodwill Ambassador 
Please Stand Up?

When Misty Barry was recruited as a foster parent she had no idea of the multiple challenges she will face in serving and supporting her foster kids. As a foster parent, she knew she was expected to arrange and transport children to medical appointments, mental health counseling sessions, and court hearings, advocate on behalf of their foster kids at school, and arrange visits with birth parents and caseworkers. However, one thing she was not expecting, was that she will had to pay for haircuts, buy clothes, school supplies, diapers, baby formulas and pay for extracurricular activities with her own money. Foster parents are expected to use the money assigned by the state to buy food, clothing, school supplies, and other incidentals; however, the money always falls short to cover the complex needs of a child.

Many people are not aware that when children come into foster care they often come with only the clothes on their back. This provides a challenge to foster families who are often stressed and overwhelmed for not being able to provide the help the child needs. Misty Barry had a dream one night of becoming a true goodwill ambassador for foster kids around the world. She knew that in order to supply the demands of foster children in her area she needed to get her community involved. She opened “Grace's Closet”, a place where people can drop donations so foster families can help supply the needs for their foster kids. 

Please take a moment and read her interview. I must warn you, have a tissue (or two) ready in hand because her story is a major mascara alert. I literally sobbed after reading it. So sad, yet inspiring.

What is Grace's closet? Grace’s Closet is literally like a huge closet that has clothes and other items that foster families in the Cherokee County area that we live in can take advantage of when they receive a new placement of a child and/or children from DFCS.


Describe the moment when the idea of helping foster parents help their foster kids first manifested. Well, I guess I realized that there was a need for this immediately after we began foster care about 3 years ago. You’re told by DFCS, during your training, that basically you’ll be contacted when a child is taken into custody to see if you’re available to take them for placement. You usually never know if this is going to be a long term or short term thing. If you say yes, they bring them to you. What I didn’t realize is that they drop them off with nothing but the clothes on their backs! And depending on the type of situation they are being removed out of, that can be dirty and soiled clothes. We have two biological children – both boys. 

Our first placement was FOUR siblings. Two girls and Two boys. It was midnight on a Sunday. I will never forget the police car pulling up in our driveway and these sad and terrified children getting out of the car. They were a mess and needed to be bathed right away. Only two of them had shoes. It was then that I went into full out panic mode. TWO GIRLS?? We only have boys at our home. What are we supposed to dress them in after they take a bath? It’s midnight. Am I just supposed to go to the store and buy them clothes?? 

Turns out the youngest girl was the same age as our youngest son at the time and the older girl was the same age as our oldest son. We had no other choice but to put them in our boy’s clothing. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when I pulled out boys underwear and pajamas for them to put on. As if it wasn’t bad enough that they had no idea who we were or where they were, but now they are putting on boys underwear??? I felt terrible for them. 

The next day I sent an email out to several friends asking for any extra clothes they had lying around that they could spare for us. Next thing you know I had bags and bags of clothing dropped off on our front porch. It was great. I bought some totes and separated the clothing and put it in a medium sized closet upstairs. However, with each new child brought a new challenge of something we didn’t have. We had some clothes, but not all sizes. 

We got a call about newborn that was coming straight from the hospital. Again, I went into a panic. We have no formula. We have no diapers. We have no bottles. Not even a bassinet, highchair or CAR SEAT! So again, I sent a message out asking for items on the fly. I got lots of stuff but no luck with an infant car seat. This posed a problem. So our only option was to go out and purchase one. They are not cheap. We were told DFCS would reimburse for this purchase but it took months to get the money back. I just kept thinking in my head “There has to be a better way”.

So for quite some time I have tried to figure out what I could do and one night I had a strange dream. I was standing in our basement in a room we had been using for storage and I kept seeing “Grace’s Closet” in my head….the next morning when I woke up, I turned to my husband and said “I have had this crazy dream and I want to make it come true.” “We have to start this closet to help ourselves and other foster families in this area.”



How have people in the community reacted to Grace's closet? So far the community has been over the top incredible! I have to say social media has been a HUGE part of that. I started by putting information on my Facebook page about it and then a friend started the “Grace’s Closet” group. We started inviting people from everywhere and it’s snowballed from there. We are starting to get donations of clothes, toys, hangers, lots of stuff.




What does a foster parent need to do to benefit from Grace's Closet? Basically they just need to contact me through Facebook, phone, or email about what they are in need of. I hope to have it and then we’ll set up a time for them to come by or I can get items together for them and meet them somewhere. They will need to provide their placement letter that they are given from DFCS so I will be able to keep track of how many children we are able to help.




What do you hope Grace's closet does to people? Well for foster families and the foster children, I hope it helps fill their needs and takes some of the pressure off of providing for them. For others, I hope it inspires them to get involved with this project and keep the closet full for years to come. I even hope it inspires people to really consider becoming foster families themselves.


Do you see an end date on this? How do you envision it evolving? I sure hope not! If I’m being honest, I would love to see thousands of “Grace’s Closets” all over the world!! I would really love to have some type of donated office space or warehouse type facility that just gets filled up for foster families all over!


How can people donate and get involved with Grace's Closet?  All they need to do to donate is contact me about getting the items delivered or picked up. I’m also hoping to become a 501c3 (Non-Profit-Organization) to possibly gain some corporate sponsors for “new” items like diapers, wipes, formula, and other toiletry type items. Maybe even some local businesses in this area would be willing to donate those items.


As a foster parent what do you wish other people knew about fostering? That list is probably pretty long. I would have to say the main things I wish they knew was that so many more families are needed to foster children. There are so many kids that need a good home. Some temporary and some not. It’s easy to sit back and say, “I could never do that”, but you’d be surprised at what you can do when children are involved. It is hard to let them go when they’ve been here, but we make sure they know they are loved from the time they step foot in our door and that we will love them forever. And I would rather know that they have felt love and are taken care of than any other alternative. And the other thing I wish people knew is the struggles foster parents face in trying to care and provide for them.


What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kids? I hope it’s how fortunate that they are and how they should never take anything for granted. And I would have to add in compassion. You never know what someone else has gone through or is going through at home. The old “can’t judge a book by its cover” scenario.


What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old? Wow – that’s a tough one. I would have to say that it’s priceless. It could be one of those Mastercard commercials – “Sheetrock to finish room in basement - $300, Shelves to build closet in basement - $600, The look on a foster child’s face when they realize some of these items are going to be all theirs for free – Priceless”.

 

Grace's closet currently have a wishlist of items that they are in desperate need. if you think you are able to donate any of these items please contact Misty Barry by email or via Facebook.


Grace's Closet Wishlist: Gently used or new clothes (preemie up to age 17),  Hangers (large and small), Socks Baby Slings/Carriers, Underwear, Shoes, Diapers, Wipes, Diaper Bags, Back Packs, School Supplies (New), Sippy Cups, Bottles, Infant Formula, Suitcases/Bags, Stuffed Animals, Gently used toys, Books, Shampoo/Conditioner, Hair Accessories, Baby Wash, Soap/Body Wash, Deodorant, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Hair Brushes, Combs, Blankets, Pack N Plays, High Chairs and Crib Sheets.

 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...