The Park Hills Public Library is collecting donations for children placed in foster care. Until Dec. 18, for every item donated, the library will forgive $1 in overdue fines.
There are currently more than 350 children and teens in the foster care program in St. Francois, Madison, Washington and Ste. Genevieve counties.
Due to circumstances beyond their control, when many of these children are removed from their homes they are only allowed to take the clothes on their backs.
Children are removed from many different types of unsuitable homes, mostly related to drug use. In those circumstances, their personal belongings are considered contaminated, so they are not allowed to take anything with them.
According to state Children’s Division representatives, the foster care program recently lost the grant that supported the Project Backpack program.
Project Backpack helps these children and teens transition into a new home by providing them with the “fresh start” items they need, including personal hygiene products, clothing, books and school supplies.
“Family services runs this program all year long, but they lost their grant, so they lost their funding for this program,” said Lisa Sisk, the library’s director. “They haven’t been able to provide very much so I’m hoping we’ll be able to do something for them.”
Preferred items for donation include backpacks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap, hairbrushes and combs, undergarments and socks, gift cards to Payless ShoeSource or Walmart for shoes, pajamas, coats and jackets, feminine hygiene products, diapers, wipes, bottles, pacifiers, stuffed animals, night-lights, age-appropriate books, journals, school supplies for school-age children, and any other items that may be useful, comforting or soothing.
Filled backpacks for a specific gender or age are also welcome, although please label as such when donating.
All personal care items and undergarments need to be new and unopened but clothing can be gently worn.
Library staff welcomes donations from anyone who wishes to support the program to help make a difference in the life of a child, regardless of whether they owe fines.
All donations should be taken to the library located at 16 S. Coffman St. For more information, call 573-431-4842.
Along with a lack of basic personal care supplies and clothing, children entering foster care face a vast array of challenges based on a variety of reasons and situations that lead to removal from their homes. Some of these reasons include physical or sexual abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, homelessness, exposure to drugs and alcohol during pregnancy or within the home and neglect of medical problems.
Feelings of fear, sadness, anger, confusion and longing characterize every child and teen who is suddenly faced with the loss of contact with their parents and often their other siblings as well.
Compounding their already difficult circumstances, foster children typically live in multiple homes and attend numerous schools. It is common for a child to be placed in at least two foster care homes before a more permanent foster home is found or the child is reunited with his/her parents. All of these transitions are stressful and can also impact a child’s ability to form healthy relationships with other children and adults.
Additionally, these stressful life events can impact a child’s ability to develop skills, learn information, and get along with other children and adults. As a result, children in foster care are at greater risk for experiencing delays in their emotional and intellectual development.
A major problem that affects nearly all children in foster care is the increased difficulty they experience in education. Because they are forced to relocate often, foster care children often lack both academic and emotional support.
They have little recourse for dealing with these emotional stressors and are twice as likely to do poorly in school as other children. This can lead to behavioral problems, placing them at greater risk for involvement in drug and alcohol abuse.
Foster children are also more likely to experience physical and mental health issues.
Kids in foster care especially need to be reminded that they can be successful and need additional support to address their needs and issues, as well as mentors, teachers and service providers to inspire them and help them establish and achieve their goals and aspirations.
For those wanting to help, there are many ways to support both foster children and foster parents. Concerned citizens can volunteer to act as a mentor, volunteer to become a temporary caregiver, or offer to provide respite care to neighbors.
There is also a program called the Older Youth Program, based on the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, which serves youth 13 to 21 years of age.
The Older Youth Program seeks to identify youth who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18 and to help them make the transition to self-sufficiency by providing a wide variety of services.
Such services include assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, career exploration, vocational training, job placement and retention, training in daily living skills, training in budgeting and financial management skills and substance abuse prevention.
Other services include preventive health programs, including smoking avoidance, nutrition education, and pregnancy prevention.
The Older Youth Program is currently in need of mentors, advocates and speakers.
To volunteer or for more information about helping children in foster care, call the Missouri Department of Social Services’ Children’s Division at 573-431-6592, or visit adoptuskids.org
Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or email@example.com.