Education

Foster children start school with new backpacks and supplies

Daisy Martinez, 10, left, and Sara Dominguez, 11, two of Lori Hill’s six foster children, wait to go to school with new backpacks filled with school supplies on the first day of class, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016.
Daisy Martinez, 10, left, and Sara Dominguez, 11, two of Lori Hill’s six foster children, wait to go to school with new backpacks filled with school supplies on the first day of class, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. rkoltun@elnuevoherald.com

For foster children from the Family Resource Center of South Florida, receiving new backpacks means starting school with confidence and being prepared to succeed.

Family Resource Center, an adoption agency, has for 11 years prepared about 900 backpacks annually, complete with grade-specific supplies for foster children from their agency. The backpacks are assembled by about 60 volunteers during an annual backpack drive and delivered free of cost to the foster families.

Oren Wunderman, director of the Family Resource Center, said that without his group’s help, many foster children would not have necessary school supplies.

“They don’t get new notebooks. They don’t get new pencils, crayons, rulers. They don’t get new backpacks,” Wunderman said. “What we want to do is start them off feeling good about their first day of school.”

Lori Hill, who takes care of four foster children from the agency and two other children from different agencies, said that receiving the backpacks was a huge help. After volunteering for her community youth in football and cheerleading programs for 20 years, Hill saw how many children needed help and decided to become a foster parent.

“[The kids] are happy because a lot of them when they come in the door only have the clothes on their back, so they don’t expect to be wearing uniforms and have new book bags and shoes. It’s a big relief for them,” she said.

She also said that she was able to use the money she saved from the school supplies for other back-to-school essentials for her six foster children, such as buying them new shoes or getting them haircuts.

“It’s a huge help. When you have as many as I do in the house every little bit helps,” Hill said.

Family Resource Center provides year-round services for the children in the agency. They have a budget for in-home tutoring, help the children establish a routine, and take them to doctor’s appointments. The center also provides mental-health services.

“When kids open these backpacks and they see they’re full of all the requisite, brand new items, they’re thrilled. It gives them something that they can feel good about in a life that’s very uncertain. Their lives have been upended and here we are giving them a really nice set of items,” Wunderman said.

How to help

▪ Volunteer to help children with their homework

▪ Volunteer to help take care and give attention to younger children

▪ Volunteer at fundraising events

▪ Become a foster parent

▪ Donate to the center

More information about how to get involved is available at www.frcflorida.org or call 305-960-5525

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