Social Services to hand out ‘Bags of Love’Children who are removed from their homes due to drug issues in Stutsman County now have Bags of Love to take with them into foster care. Em Burkett, child welfare supervisor at Stutsman County Social Services, said there are currently about 20 children in foster care and that’s been the average for the last few years. Many have to leave their homes with nothing — not a toy or even a toothbrush.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
Children who are removed from their homes due to drug issues in Stutsman County now have Bags of Love to take with them into foster care.
Em Burkett, child welfare supervisor at Stutsman County Social Services, said there are currently about 20 children in foster care and that’s been the average for the last few years. Many have to leave their homes with nothing — not a toy or even a toothbrush.
Last year about this time, she received refurbished old suitcases filled with necessities and comfort items from a Bismarck woman, Rebecca Young Sletten. The suitcases went to children who suddenly needed foster care and were appreciated, she said.
“But we don’t have a lot of storage space to keep them,” she said.
Plus, because Young Sletten lives in Bismarck, she isn’t able to provide them on short notice.
Now, a group of women from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamestown is providing Bags of Love to serve the same purpose.
A member of the group, Winona Rodacker, said she received a call from a fellow church member who lives in Bowdon who suggested the “It’s My Very Own” project, which was created to provide bags filled with necessities and comfort items as a long-term service. Generally, the project has focused on children devastated by their parents’ use or production of methamphetamines.
“The kids can’t take any of their stuff with them because it’s been contaminated,” Burkett said, regarding homes that double as meth labs.
Although Rodacker and others involved in their church’s Community Services organization are focused primarily on bags for children left homeless because of meth, she said, the group will talk about expanding it to meet the needs of Social Services. Thursday, they delivered the first eight bags with personal care items, a quilt or comforter, a stuffed animal, toy or other age-appropriate items. They plan to make and fill five bags a month for Social Services. They’ve even adjusted the size of the bags to fit the child’s age.
“And if there’s anything else you need in the bags, just ask,” LuVerne Jarski told Burkett. Jarski and Joyce Graham joined Rodacker in presenting the Bags of Love for the children.
Most of the multi-use bags, quilts and blankets are made by the church women.
“Sewing is a big part of this,” Rodacker said.
Graham said those who can’t sew can cut out blocks of material and piece together quilts. They also fill toiletry bags, make tags indicating sex and age or purchase items for the bag.
“I can’t sew anymore, but there’s still a lot you can do,” she said.
Church members and Hillcrest School children have also contributed either items or money. Graham said the school children gave them all kinds of stuffed animals.
“There was a tremendous response by the whole church,” Rodacker said.
Burkett said it’s the blankets or quilts the children seem to want more than anything else they receive. Linda Ebel, foster care worker at Social Services, agreed.
“The kids love the quilts, comforters and blankets. It represents warmth and comfort to them,” Ebel said. “I know of one child, who’s been out of care for a long time, but still needs to be covered with it every night.”
Many of the children in foster care are with relatives, but there is always a need for foster parents, Ebel said. Those who are interested should call for more information. No one is obligated, she said. Foster care parenting isn’t for everyone and it’s best to get all the information. New foster parents are mentored and advised by experienced foster care parents.
“With more foster care parents, we can find the most appropriate match, which means the best placement for the child,” Ebel said.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org