There are over 1,100 youth in the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who are currently in foster care. Many arrive with their few belongings in garbage bags, and no means of managing those basic items. Foster children in San Mateo County, when arriving for placement, often don’t have any way to store or manage the belongings they have been able to bring with them from home. Their belongings are stuffed into garbage bags. Bedding is also in short supply. Through our research, we learned that one of five California foster youth ends up incarcerated and one in four becomes homeless within two years. The coordinator of the Silicon Valley Foundation Youth Program noted that these kids “. . . have no safety net, they don’t have anyone to turn to. They don’t have anyone to say, it’s going to be OK, let’s work together. There’s a sense of total isolation and hopelessness.” The high cost of living in San Mateo County has driven existing foster parents out of the housing market, thereby decreasing the pool of foster homes. So while we can't fix the larger problems that these kids have, we thought that we'd work to give them some dignity, help with their sense of self-respect, and let them know that someone cares.
How will 4-H help?
Our club has been asked by Help One Child (a non‐profit, non-denominational organization whose mission is local outreach to at‐risk children both in and out of the foster care system), to make and donate cuddly throw blankets, or pillow cases capable of holding the blanket or other belongings. We would also like to make toiletry bags, stuffed with shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, floss and toothbrushes, with optional acne cleanser, and other personal items to help with the transition since personal hygiene is so important for social and emotional health, especially at school. Help One Child typically works with churches in our area ‐ but reached out to Belmont 4‐H because of an awareness of a potential community of adults and youth with sewing skills. Multiple 4-H clubs, Belmont's VOICES Community service Program, and the company YesTo through donations all contributed to this project.
This project left a great impact on participants as well as our entire community. Firstly, we were able to exceed our goal of making 30 toiletry bags, 30 pillow cases, and 30 throw blankets. In fact, we exceeded this goal and made 48 of each item. Secondly, participants were able to volunteer and give their time in order to help others. 4-H members also learned that their skills and time is appreciated by other youth. In this project everyone was able to participate and felt that their efforts helping sew the blankets, toiletry bags, and pillow cases, made others feel better about themselves as well. In our club specifically, we were able to get many toiletry donations from 4-H members and so many people were willing to give. We had also had extra personal care items that we were able to the San Mateo Receiving Home. Finally, La Toya Faulkner-Clayton met us at the Receiving Home and greatly appreciated all that our community did. All in all, this project was a great experience for all the participants.