People helping people - Foundation helps out foster kids

Suzanne Geske

Foster Children's Foundation

Who will love me? Who will teach me? Where will I live?

These are questions no child should ever have to ask themselves. Foster children are faced with these questions every day. These children attend school with our children, live in our community and have the same basic needs that our birth children do. Unfortunately, circumstances have left them neglected, abused, abandoned and without many of life's simple necessities.

Four years ago, a group of business leaders in the community were shocked to learn just how many children are in foster care and the extent of their physical and emotional needs. Since that time, the community has come together to help repair these fragile lives by establishing the Foster Children's Foundation Inc. The mission is to identify the needs of foster children and, with the combined support of local churches, schools, businesses, civic organizations and caring citizens, implement ways to meet many of these needs and raise public awareness.

The Foster Children's Foundation Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is a support organization to help foster children. Through numerous programs and projects, the FCF raises children's self-esteem and provides for many of their material and emotional needs. Throughout the year, activities are planned for the children, such as cultural arts events, sporting events and summer camp sponsorships. This allows them to experience some of the same opportunities that nonfostered youth enjoy. In addition, numerous annual events are hosted, including an Easter egg hunt, a family picnic and holiday celebrations. These events give siblings who have been placed in separate homes the opportunity to spend quality time together and have a fun day filled with laughter and smiles.

Though activities are important to the well-being of these children, their material needs must first be met. FCF and its volunteers saw the need for very basic personal items such as clothing and hygiene products. More often than not, when children arrive into care, they come with nothing but the clothes on their back, most without even a toothbrush, pajamas for that night or school clothes for the next day. To solve this need, the FCF has established a clothing and needs center in Duluth. This is a safe, clean place where foster parents and caseworkers can bring children to shop at no cost. The center supplies items such as clothing for all ages and sizes, a variety of hygiene products, school supplies and other basic necessities.

Equally important are the emotional needs of foster children. Each child is unique with many different factors that affect how they feel about themselves and the world around them. To help meet this need, FCF is establishing a mentoring program where volunteer mentors will work with children to identify specific emotional needs. This will provide positive role models who will guide the children on a path to success, help them set goals and establish a more stable foundation.

Today in Gwinnett County alone, there are more than 750 children in foster care. They range in age from birth to 18 years old and come in all shapes and sizes from many different cultures. Their backgrounds include abuse, neglect, drugs or other unsafe and dangerous environments. Although each child has specific needs they share many similarities. They have not asked to be where they are, they feel alone, afraid and do not know what tomorrow holds. Like each of us and our own children, they share the need to be loved and cared for.

Solving the many challenges that are faced by these children is a community effort. It will take the combined support of the business, public and private sectors. While many of the needs have been identified and the vehicle to help meet those needs has been established, much remains to be done. Additional volunteers and funding are necessary to help these children reach their potential.

Make a difference in your life by making a difference in the life of a child.

Become part of the Foster Children's Foundation family of volunteers. On May 7, the Foster Children's Foundation, with the help of the Gwinnett County Bar Association, will be celebrating Foster Care Month by inviting the public to an open house at its clothing and needs center located at 3777 Abbotts Bridge Road in Duluth. Join us from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Suzanne Geske, executive director of Foster Children's Foundation Inc. She can be reached at 770-623-6135 or www.fosterchildrensfoundation.org.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.