In addition to the challenges faced by nearly all families during a pandemic, youth in foster care are especially vulnerable because the stress of COVID-19 is compounded by previous trauma and adverse childhood experiences. The effects of this might include physical and behavioral symptoms, decreased self-esteem, an overriding sense of loss, feelings of isolation, and difficulty accepting or trusting stable relationships.
To counteract these challenges and help Northeast Ohio children who experience foster care build the skills they need to thrive, Fostering Hope began working in 2013 to raise awareness and provide opportunities for youth in foster care to experience joy while engaging with the communities in which they live.
Built upon the three pillars of Community Involvement, Health & Wellness, and Childhood Experiences, Fostering Hope strives to help children learn to navigate and surmount the many obstacles that may impact their lives. They focus their time and resources on.nine programs, one of which is the Journey Bag Program.
“Children in foster care often move multiple times, [sometimes with] only a garbage bag to carry their few belongings. Situations like that can have a lasting impact on kids. Fostering Hope and the Journey Bag Program want to change that by providing new luggage, blankets, teddy bears, toiletries, and comfort items for kids in foster care,” explains Gabrielle De La Cruz, Community Engagement Coordinator.
Another program Fostering Hope usually hosts each year is their Bunny Hop for Hope, a community-wide celebration that invites children in foster care to celebrate spring’s arrival with goody-filled baskets personally delivered by the Easter Bunny, followed by a photo session and brunch.
“Each year the Easter Baskets are donated by generous individuals from the community. While the party is postponed, the children are very much impacted by the current crisis, and we are committed to bringing them hope during this time,” shares De La Cruz. “We still have plans to deliver Easter baskets to the kids.” If you’d like to help make those Easter dreams come true, you can purchase items for Easter Baskets through Fostering Hope’s Amazon wishlist.
De La Cruz assures us that “after the CDC and government restrictions are lifted, all Fostering Hope programs will return, including their trauma-informed yoga and arts program and Hope Grows Here, a therapeutic gardening program held in outdoor classrooms.”
Want to get your kids actively involved in helping others during their isolation at home? De La Cruz suggests that you consider “ordering supplies and assembling Easter baskets for the Fostering Hope Foundation” and while you’re creating the baskets, you can discuss foster care with your family.
For instance, she says, you might ask your children what they know about foster care — what do they think it is? You can talk about the impact that foster care might have for a child and what activities and celebrations that children in foster care might not have a chance to experience, like birthday parties and holiday events. Give your children the opportunity to share ideas of how they can support kids in foster care.
To see all the ways that you can get involved, and to be notified when programs are up and running again, visit Fostering Hope online at fosteringhopeohio.org.