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Funds needed to help foster kids

Nicole Swiers and Karri Muff are putting together a supply drive for children in foster care. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam

When a child is taken out of their home by the county, it’s never a good situation.

Typically, there is trauma, there is drama and there is a whole lot of pain and unanswered questions for the children.

What there rarely is, however, is a good supply of necessity items available for them as they transition from their home, to the emergency shelter, to the foster home.

“We do try to help the foster families be able to make some purchases for the child when they come into the home, but that can’t always happen the night they get placed,” said Becker County Social Worker Joni Wohlwend, who says when children are taken out of a home, it’s usually done in such a quick manner that there is no time for packing bags.

“We try to work with the family to try to retrieve some of their wardrobe, but it doesn’t always work out for us because of one reason or another,” said Wohlwend, who says there are many times when children will have no items of their own and only the clothes on their backs.

That’s where two local women are stepping in.

Nicole Swiers and Karri Muff and their husbands are licensed foster parents in Becker County.

They know first-hand how difficult it is to scramble in order to get in-coming kids the necessities when the call comes in and things happen so quickly.

“And if they’re sent to a foster home where they don’t happen to have kids that age and gender, then they might not have anything at all,” said Muff. “And even if the home has things the child can use, it’s still not really theirs.”

So Swiers and Muff are rallying the troops to try to raise awareness for the needs of foster children fresh out of their homes, as they push for a foster care supply drive.

The idea is to collect items to place into backpacks for each child who is brought into Becker County’s foster care system.

“It would be nice to be able to give them pajamas, a toothbrush, maybe a little stuffed animal for the younger kids and a journal or something for the older kids,” said Swiers, “…just something they can call their own.”

The ladies have started a facebook campaign called Foster Care Supply Drive. On it, there is information about items they need for the backpack, as well as the drop off location for them, which at this point is the Community Alliance Church in Detroit Lakes.

The list of items needed includes diapers of all sizes, baby wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, stuffed animals, hairbrushes/combs, pajamas, socks, underwear, backpacks and cash donations.

They are only asking for new items and are not asking for any more blankets, as they already get those from area churches and quilting clubs.

“I really think what these backpacks will do is make the kids feel more comfortable right away,” said Wohlwend.  “They at least have some questions answered right away; they have what they need for the next 24-hours.”

Wohlwend says she believes this program will be particularly comforting to some of the school-aged children who will already have so many questions and concerns about what lies ahead.

Although there are roughly 80-90 kids in foster care in Becker County at any given time, Wohlwend says in 2012 they had around 171 new cases throughout the year.

Swiers and Muff says they’d be happy to get enough to fill 50 backpacks to start off, but plan to continue the efforts as it’s needed.

Muff, who recently received a $1,000 “Pay it Forward” grant from Bell State Bank in Detroit Lakes, donated it to the foster care program in Becker County to spruce up the area children are held in while waiting for a foster home.

Although she and Swiers are donating their already scarce time to a cause they are passionate about, they say it’s the children in the program that make it rewarding for them.

“The joy that they bring, I think … what would life be without them?” said Muff, who along with her husband, Ron, adopted two foster children.

The ladies say although they hope this supply drive is successful, they also hope to bring awareness to other areas of fostering where people can help.

“Even if somebody can’t foster, they can always do little things to show support for those doing it,” said Swiers, who says offering respite care, or breaks, for foster parents helps.  Stopping by with dinner or even giving them a phone call to see how things are going can help.

“There’s a saying I love,” said Muff, “It goes, ‘Adopt. And if you can’t adopt, foster. And if you can’t foster, sponsor. And if you can’t sponsor, volunteer. And if you can’t volunteer, donate. And if you can’t donate, educate.’”

For more information, “join” the event called Foster Care Supply Drive on Facebook or email one of the women at either or  Muff and Swiers can also make arrangements to pick up items if donors cannot bring them to Community Alliance. For that, call Swiers at  218-375-2130 or Muff at 218-375-3377.