Vol. 13 No. 1 - August, 2010

Employee donations help Massachusetts children and youth living in foster care

foster care
More than 2,000 items valued at approximately $10,000 were donated by employees of CWM and its affiliates during Foster Care Month

Employees of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine (CWM) division and its affiliates, Public Sector Partners (PSP) and MedMetrics Health Partners (MHP), made the lives of Massachusetts children and youth living in foster care a little bit brighter by donating more than 2,000 items valued at approximately $10,000 to the Department of Children and Families during Foster Care Month in May. Donations for children and youth, from infants to 20 years old, included stuffed animals, teething toys, bottles, school supplies, games, personal care items, coloring books and crayons, backpacks, lunch bags and clothing.

According to Martha Henry, PhD, director of CWM’s Office of Foster Care and Adoption (OFCA), a child who does not have a permanent home usually does not have his or her own personal items. “As an office, we would gather together items like these around the holidays for kids in foster care because we know what it would mean for them to have their own backpack or stuffed animal,” said Dr. Henry. “A natural next step was to expand the idea to a program in which other departments could participate, which Commonwealth Medicine leadership supported and encouraged wholeheartedly.”

Teaming up with Commonwealth Medicine’s REACH (Recognizing Employee Achievements and Commonwealth Medicine Happenings) committee, OFCA collected contributions of new goods to create “my stuff” bags for children and youth in foster care. Donation boxes were set up at multiple campus sites and at the PSP/MHP offices in Worcester. “We were overwhelmed by the level of people’s generosity and how engaged they were,” said Henry. “I think when people learn that there are more than 10,000 children and youth in Massachusetts living in out-of-home care, it really hits home that these are kids in their communities. It engages them to act.”

“This is a wonderful example of how UMass Medical School employees support their local communities, which embodies the mission of UMMS and Commonwealth Medicine,” said Jim Leary, vice chancellor for community and government relations at UMMS.

In addition to the donation campaign, Foster Care Month information sessions were held at several UMMS campuses. Henry and OFCA Director of Training and Technical Assistance Michael McManus gave an overview of foster care, discussed ways that people can support children and youth in care, and identified how a child or youth can benefit from a meaningful connection to a caring adult. “These sessions were designed to encourage people to think broadly about how they can help kids in out-of-home care,” said Henry. “As a result of the information sessions, many people contacted our office to learn more about how they could positively affect a child’s life, either by volunteering or becoming a foster parent.”

The donation campaign and information sessions were held during Foster Care Month, a national campaign held annually in May to raise awareness about foster care and recognize the people who make a difference for children and youth in foster care. Throughout the U.S., there are more than half a million children living in foster care.