BATON ROUGE, LA (KSLA) - First Lady Donna Edwards is launching a new initiative to connect foster parents with the support systems they need in their communities.
The First Lady's initiative builds on the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) launched last year to change the way the state recruits and trains foster parents. The statewide campaign will link government, faith groups, non-profit organizations, businesses and community members to create a united network of support for Louisiana's foster care system.
"Louisiana's foster children are our children – yours and mine – and it is our responsibility to provide what they need," said Edwards. "That means ensuring those who take care of these children, who open their homes and hearts to them, have the resources they need to provide stability and guidance."
DCFS served a total of 7,808 children in foster care during the 2017 fiscal year, with about 4,300 children placed with 2,250 foster families on any given day.
"Louisiana Fosters is a perfect marriage of QPI and the community supports that our foster parents need," said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. "It takes more than government to truly care for our children. Louisiana Fosters is building a supportive network to help take care of our foster parents and the children they care for every day."
Those families, and others like them who are willing and eager to open their homes to our children, often need help meeting a child's immediate needs – with a bed or crib, diapers or school supplies – as well as more long-term support.
"Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone has something to offer," Walters said. "Whether that means sponsoring a child's dance lessons or little league sports equipment, providing childcare for a foster parent's night out, offering low-cost office space to an organization that helps foster families or leave time to a family who fosters, there is something everyone can do to help."
One group already supporting foster families in NWLA is Geaux Bags, a nonprofit created in 2013. The group provides a bag of essential and comfort items to make a child's first night in foster care a little bit easier.
"These kids that we had came dirty, disheveled and without all the basics they needed and it was really obviously a traumatic, sad situation they came from and when they came to our house then we had to try and hurry up and find the things that they need," said Geaux Bags founder, K.C. Kilpatrick
After witnessing the struggle of 'the first night' as a foster parent, Kilpatrick knew something had to be done, and out of the back of her car she began collecting items to have on hand for foster families, and from it Geaux Bags was born.
"In the bag, it costs about $50, it's a pack of new underwear, a pair pajamas, toiletries and right size accessories they need and necessities, and a comfort item that could be a blanket, could be a book, it could be a magazine, it could be really anything that the community has given that you think children 0 to 18 would need," said Kilpatrick.
These bags serving as a life changing gift during the darkest of hours.
"To have something just years to be reminded that there are people in the world that love that moment of fear that moment of pain to switch that script just a little bit to remember that you are loved and you're wanted," explained Kilpatrick.
She continued, "State workers, they need some help. You see that with the budget cuts, you see that with what's going on, they need help so let's help them."
Information about the First Lady's initiative, including partnership ideas and resources, can be found on the newly unveiled website at www.LouisianaFosters.la.gov.