From Jane Lyons, Executive Director

The children and young people we work with do not often have the chance to feel the firm ground that comes from family consistency. COVID-19 has further exacerbated uncertainties and has created a drastic increase in basic needs, particularly for lower income families. To say that their world of anxiety has been extremely heightened in recent months would be an understatement. 
Also, our nation is grappling with an exceptionally overdue reckoning with institutionalized and systemic racism. Some of our FOCUS members have been protesting to amplify their voices to create change. We stand with them, fellow advocates, with a goal of tearing down racism where it is blatant and where it hides. 
We are grateful that Friends of Children has had the resources to help children, families and young people, especially during the pandemic. As you will read, you will see the many ways that we have helped with sharing resources through our FOCUS and CASA programs. 
One FOCUS member didn't have a laptop or tablet for communications, making him feel further isolated. Thanks to Foster Dignity, he now has one! He had this to share: “I just wanted to say that I’m so happy about the laptop! I’m so excited to have a computer to be connected during the pandemic! I'm looking forward to doing some house searching for the fall! Thank you so much for everything!!! I truly appreciate it!"
Our supporters have made these opportunities to address real needs possible. We are grateful that you give Friends of Children the chance to tangibly help. 
Thank you!
About our Foster Dignity Program

Foster Dignity was launched thanks to the efforts of Northampton residents who were foster parents to 9 kids, and had first-hand experience with children arriving at homes with all of their belongings in a trash bag. They set out to change this problem by collecting suitcases and backpacks and distributing them to kids in our community. They approached Friends of Children to take over this work, which we happily embraced, and further developed the program to support children with many additional resources. 

Our Foster Dignity program partners with individuals and organizations in our community to provide essentials for children in the foster care system. At its heart is the belief that children’s basic needs should be met and that the resources playing field should be leveled. Foster children are frequently moved from placement to placement, with only a few personal belongings in a trash bag. It can be hard to explain to other kids at a new school that you didn’t forget your backpack, because you don’t have one. It is hard to ask for something you need if you aren’t sure how long you will even remain in a new placement.

Connections to tangible resources and opportunities to experience things that enhance life and well being should not be kept from this already vulnerable group. Sports, dance classes, after school and summer programs of all kinds should not be out of reach.These resources include opportunities to improve chances for a life of well-being and success. 

Learn more about Foster Dignity here.  
Foster Dignity Aiding CASA and FOCUS in the time of Covid-19

All of our programs, including children and youth in our CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and our FOCUS Membership program for young adults, benefit from Foster Dignity. During the Covid-19 crisis, this program has become especially essential with loss of community, jobs, schooling, lack of access to technology, and the stress that comes from being in quarantine. 

Our FOCUS program members have benefitted from Foster Dignity in many ways throughout the year, from car donations, UBER gift cards and drug store cards, to computers, phone and camera technology donations, textbook donations, and cash donations. 

In the time of Covid-19, we have done everything we can to meet additional needs that have arisen, particularly in the need for gift cards for groceries, connecting young adults to resources, providing personal development and educational opportunities, community space online, and computer technology. FOCUS program volunteers provided care and wellness packages to ALL participants, and have been regularly checking in and supporting FOCUS members in many ways. 

The CASA program also has played a key role in helping children and families whose lives have been upended. Our CASA volunteers have supported children and family by regularly checking in on their overall wellness and resource needs. We have provided Foster Dignity support to families whose children are at home with gift cards to stores that carry both grocery and household items, as well as games and other types of activities. CASA volunteers have surveyed families (foster, kinship and biological) to make certain that they had usable technology, so important during this high-stress time to mitigate isolation. 

How You Can Support Foster Dignity!

There are so many ways you can support Foster Dignity! 

We are always seeking donations of essentials for children and young adults, along with gift cards. Additionally, you can support a young adult with a car donation. You can see here a list of donations we are seeking, as well as a link to our Amazon Smile account. 

Additionally, individuals and community organizations can also help in creative ways such as holding a gift card donation drive, or raising money to donate towards technology for children and young adults. 

Stop here to contact us about supporting Foster Dignity.
Arise For Social Justice Is Assisting Springfield Area Residents

Arise for Social Justice is assisting anyone in need of food, transportation, medical or other resources. You can call Arise and leave a message. A staff member will be back in touch ASAP. 

They are also assisting people who get in touch through their Facebook messenger app.  

Arise for Social Justice is a low-income rights, anti-oppression organization that is also committed to ending racism right here in Western Mass. 

Here is a link to their website, so you can learn more.