Making foster care approachable
For years, the common perception was that the only way to help kids in foster care was to become a foster parent. As a school teacher, I found myself falling in love with these sweet children, but at that phase of life, I wasn't able to take in a child.
Still, I knew there had to be a way to connect the community to these kids entering foster care. There had to be a way to make foster care more approachable and invite the community to help our most vulnerable children.
With Love, a nonprofit organization, was born in the living room of my Lake Oswego home. It wasn't fancy or organized; it didn't even have a logo. It was a place for the community to donate used items for kids newborn to age 6 that would then be sent out to children in foster care in the Portland area.
It was small and relied on the generosity of donors and volunteers, yet it was a start. Soon, With Love was serving our Portland heroes who commonly go by the name of foster parents.
In 2017, 1,265 children from newborn to age 5 spent time in foster care in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties by no fault of their own. But once they agree to take in a child, many foster parents are given mere hours to prepare for their new family member. While it's exciting, there is also a feeling of slight panic and being unprepared for that sweet child.
Most parents have nine months to prepare for a newborn — foster parents often have four hours. With Love is there to support these parents and give them the items they need, so they can focus on bonding with that child.
"Along with these sweet babies came appointments. So. Many. Appointments. Court calls, medical and dental visits, behavioral and learning assessments, attorney meetings and visits with the biological parents," says Becky, a foster parent. "We were completely unprepared for all of it. But for even a short time, we know they are safe, content, thriving and loved. And our family is honored to have been a part of their story."
With Love is a community of donors, volunteers and staff wrapping their arms around foster parents who say yes. Serving kids in foster care is more approachable now. Many of our volunteers have become respite providers because they want to do more to support these families, and some have taken the classes and are now foster parents because of With Love.
In 2018, With Love served more than 1,100 kids with gear, clothing, toys and consumables. About 5,700 hours were volunteered washing clothes, making cute outfits, filling orders and delivering items to foster parents' front doors.
With Love is able to serve Portland's foster community thanks to the donors giving new or like-new donations to us or funding us with monthly, one-time donations, or using their company match. Volunteers spend countless hours showing up to give their time and make sure that foster children who arrive with merely a shirt on their backs also have shoes that fit and are appropriate for the season, a blanket and toys to call their own.
To find out how to get involved or donate, please check out our website at withloveoregon.org.
Allie Roth is the founder and president of With Love, a nonprofit supporting foster families in the Portland area by collecting and delivering all the vital items needed to raise a child. Prior to starting With Love in 2013, she taught grades four and five and worked as a supervisor for student and first-year teachers in Marylhurst University's education department.