|Virginia Gaston, of For the Kids in Aurora, is no stranger to the plight of foster children.|
"Often, when children come into foster care, they come in with nothing but the clothes on their backs," Gaston said, "and if they have come from a meth home, even those have to be thrown away."
Gaston is a foster parent in the 39th Circuit, who takes children in on an emergency basis, many times in the middle of the night.
"Kids who come into foster care sometimes try to bring things of their own," Gaston said, "but the clothing will be ragged, dirty or too small. That means the foster parent has to clothe them from the inside out, underclothing, socks, shoes, clothes and jackets."
Children coming into foster care aren't one-size-fits-all.
|"We have a clothing bank that stocks used clothing||sizes from pre-mature babies to extra large adult clothing, because we have teens that wear that size," Gaston said. "We also have bunk beds, twin beds, toddler beds, strollers and car seats for foster parents to use. We packed 50 backpacks of school supplies at the start of the new school year."|
With over 330 foster children in care in the 39th Circuit, over 200 of which reside with families in Lawrence and Barry counties, finding the basic necessities can be difficult, which makes acquiring some of the luxuries completely out of reach.
"We do have a few toys for young children," Gaston said. "We have books and movies, as well. However, our biggest project is our annual Christmas drive, where we try to make sure each child in foster care receives at least three gifts."
With limited funds, that can be a huge task.
"We try to make sure we spend at least $50 to $75 on each child," Gaston said. "When one of the wishes is a bike, we struggle to find them in our price range."
For the Kids collects three Christmas wishes from each child in foster and adoptive care in order to try and fulfill the gift requests.
"We have Angel Trees set up at Miracle/Playpower Recreation Equipment and at the First United Methodist Church, both in Monett, and at Temple Baptist Church in Aurora," Gaston said. "People can also call us to request angels."
Typical requests this year include: Legos, dollhouses, army men, Barbie dolls with extra clothes, cars and trucks that make noise or flip, Baby Alive dolls, Hot Wheels and trucks, learning toys for infants and toddlers, books, puzzles, riding toys, dinosaurs, SpongeBob items, headphones (not ear buds), remote control cars, billfolds, baby dolls and strollers, movies, Xbox 360 games and Wii games.
For teens, gift cards to local retailers, hair straighteners, jewelry, compact discs (no hard rock), nail manicure sets for guys, nail polish for girls and hoodies.
"Hoodies are a big request this year," Gaston said. "Minutes for phones are always welcome, as well."
The gifts are not wrapped, but given to the foster parents to wrap or put under the tree.
"One year we had a little boy open a Barbie, so we stopped wrapping the gifts," Gaston said. "No mistakes that way."
"Foster children receive a clothing allowance through the state," Gaston said, "but children in relative or kinship placement do not, so their need is greater."
For the Kids adopted 50 foster children from the Joplin community following last year's tornado.
"We also adopt children in residential placement homes, the Good Samaritan Home and the Baptist Children's Home in Mt. Vernon," Gaston said. "They have nothing.
"It's tough for a kid to be in a strange home at the holidays," Gaston said. "While the things they grow up with may not be the right things, that's all they know. They don't know what 'normal' is. Kids come into foster care with a lot of baggage."
Gaston told of four children recently coming into foster care who had been living in a car.
"They came here and got coats, toys, blankets, shoes and other things they lacked in a parental home," Gaston said. "This house is a blessing to so many children."
To make donations or request an angel to adopt for Christmas, call Gaston at 417-229-2415 or Lynette Bailey at 417-489-7903.