When a child enters foster care the circumstances almost always involve a distressed family situation. Those who welcome a child in a foster home face challenges as well. Managing the situation on both sides of that dynamic may leave little room for the extras that make life easier. A new free boutique that just opened in Wallingford is providing a solution for those in the foster system who may need a helping hand.
Fostering Family Hope is the driving force behind this project, according to the Record-Journal’s Kate Ramunni, who covered the grand opening of The Closet last week. Clothes, toys, personal care items, backpacks and more are all on display and free at the boutique’s 31 Hall Ave. location. Access is available by appointment.
The store is open to all families connected to any aspect of foster care in Connecticut. This includes families receiving preventative care, trying to stay together before a child is removed, as well as those in the process of reunification with biological families or those who will eventually move on to adoption, said co-founder and co-Executive Director Erin Johnston.
There are about 600 children in foster care in Meriden, Wallingford and Cheshire, and about 3,000 placements statewide.
The grand opening was attended by local luminaries, including Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., Miss Teen Connecticut Maddie Ruggiero, Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ray Andrewsen and officials from Fostering Family Hope, including Johnston and co-founder Megan Pearson.
Dickinson said, “Children and families — you can’t get more basic than that, and caring for those in the foster system. Support this organization. We are proud to have it in our downtown.”
Many at the event have a personal connection to the project and foster care needs.
Ruggiero, 14, has worked on fundraisers for the organization. She said her family is in the process of becoming a foster family, “so it is amazing that this (boutique) is here for all the kids and it will be great for more kids that come into Wallingford as well.”
Johnston and Pearson are both foster parents. Johnston said, “We saw a large need in the foster care community and that was with clothing, toiletries — things when kids were first coming into care — so we generated this idea of helping each other out and helping other foster families out that we knew and it grew into this network and now a boutique we are opening today.”
She emphasized that all items are free. “They get all of their toiletries, they get shoes, clothing, toys, anything that they might need while they’re in foster care.”
Johnston and other Fostering Family Hope supporters say the next step is to make sure the community gets involved. People who can help by becoming a monthly sponsor will be essential for keeping the doors open and the shelves filled.
This is a tremendous opportunity for community involvement, a project to rally around that no doubt can use all kinds of support. The benefit will go directly to people who live in our local towns, or state, and could be considered part of our big, extended family. Helping to make life for those families — and the kids they’re working hard to nurture — a little easier is doable. The boutique has established a way to give that help and everyone is invited to participate.