Foster Stitches helps kids in crisis
WILLMAR, Minn. — Becoming a licensed foster parent in Minnesota requires a series of steps: Prospective parents must undergo background checks, home visits and foster care training before they can welcome foster children into their homes.
But these steps don't prepare foster parents for children showing up on their doorsteps with only the clothing on their backs.
Ashley Hanson, a mother of seven and licensed foster parent, recalled going through that two years ago, when a girl was dropped off at her doorstep as a crisis placement.
"(She) was just mortified that she was going to have to wear the same outfit to school the next day, because she had nothing. And she was probably around 11 or 10 years old, where kids would notice. She was like, 'I just wore this yesterday and they're going to notice,' and I just said, 'OK, honey, we're going to get you something,'" Hanson said.
This scenario is not unfamiliar to other foster parents, as Tracy Dykshoorn, a mother of four, can attest to.
"These kids from an emergency placement, normally it's a drug bust or a crisis of some sort, and with drug busts they don't want to bring anything along, because they don't know if it's contaminated," she said.
These unfortunate situations led Hanson and Dykshoorn to pair up and start collecting donations of clothing and shoes for foster families. They call their organization Foster Stitches.
Foster Stitches receives donations of clothing, shoes and winter gear for foster children throughout the Kandiyohi County area. Hanson and Dykshoorn store all the donations in Dykshoorn's basement, giving them the ability to gather clothing at a moment's notice for fellow foster families in need.
Foster families often face delayed finances for the children they take into their homes, which can put a significant strain on the family budget even if it's not a crisis placement.
"Foster parents aren't typically wealthy people — and so if you don't have the extra funds to go and get stuff for them, you have nothing. They don't send a check until the next month, or sometimes it's six weeks. So it's just hard," Hanson said.
The community has been supportive of the organization, responding to specific requests for donations on the Foster Stitches Facebook page whenever the need arises.
In 2016, Rice Memorial Hospital gave the group 12 gift baskets from 12 different departments in the hospital.
Foster Stitches gives all these donations to foster families and social workers for free, operating primarily as a location to store clothing. If they had extra space, Hanson and Dykshoorn would love to be able to do more with their donations.
"Ideally we'd love a place where we could actually hang stuff up and let the kids come and shop on their own," Hanson said.
"We don't have the space for toys or even that many clothes right now, so to have someplace bigger to store our stuff is a possible next step," Dykshoorn said.
Donations are the best way to help Foster Stitches continue to provide necessities to children in the area.
"Our only real requirement is 'Would you put your own child in that?'" Hanson said.
"And honestly, if you're able, you can become a foster parent. Kids need good homes that will welcome them in in their time of need, so if you can foster kids, you should go through the training."
To stay updated on what Foster Stitches needs, visit fosterstitches.org.