Today we have the incredible honor of sharing my time with Crystal of LOVE ALL OUR KIDS. We have been so encouraged by all of the hard work she is doing to connect foster care and family support agencies with the community around her. She is raising awareness of what the needs are with local people who have a heart to help! We are so pumped by her work!
We have both grown our family through foster adoption. We have known of each other for years but our family got to spend time in a small group for foster and adoptive families almost 7 years ago as our families started in the foster care process.
She is a wife to TJ, and they have 4 kiddos. She is the love all our kids director. She has always been drawn to people who need help. She has always wondered how she can help people. As she grew she learned the realities of the foster care system and what these kiddos have been through she couldn’t go back to not knowing. She couldn’t not see it. It was a moment where she couldn’t look away. And it was a moment where she honed in her general passion towards helping in the foster care system.
I know for Jared and I … when we were considering growing our family through foster adoption we had a moment similar to her defining moment when we went to the orientation at county. And as we learned about how great that need was… Right here… so close to where we are… that there there are so many kids who need a safe home. When you learn the gravity of the situation and that there are kids… in our community… known by name… that need homes. For us we couldn’t not take the next step.
What is Love All Our Kids:
Love All Our Kids is a branch of Love Our Cities. LAOK is a component of Love Our Cities that focuses specifically on supporting foster care agencies. It falls under a grant that finds ways to meet the needs of foster families. She is working more directly with the social workers to identify needs and then bring those needs to the community and then inspire other people to get involved and to give tangible ways to help.
There are a lot of people who want to help but might not know how and so Crystal is doing the great work to connect them. We just agree so much with all of her hard work. We believe that we all can make a impact on our community and to love on our foster youth. So even if you don’t feel called to foster in this season we still have a heartfelt responsibility. It takes our whole community to come together. These kiddos are so valuable and worth it. We also believe wholeheartedly there are so many people in our community with hearts to serve in both big and small ways. We are so thankful for Crystal and LAOK doing the work on the front lines. It is hard work but good work!
So some of the practical ways we can help are…
Crystal Encourages people to figure out what their lane is. Figure out what ways you enjoy serving.
They have a heart to help support birth families. Maybe there hasn’t been anything criminal or need to remove but maybe they have support needs. They also help to support kids who have aged out of foster care so they have help to avoid homelessness, trafficking, jail, addictions.
There are practical ways to support people in vulnerable situations. There are social workers on the front lines who are making referrals with very clear specifics for what the needs of kids and families. Like a bed for a family or a bag of groceries. And Crystal has a list of people who have ways they like to serve to that she can easily connect them when the need arises. It can be as easy as placing an order on amazon and shipping it straight to the person in need.
Crystal has lots of community groups like friend groups, girl scouts, teams, mops that can come together to tackle a project or need. It can also be something fun to do with your kids while they are home this summer. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time to make a big impact.
One of the biggest things they do all year is their Comfort Kit Drive. That comes up every December and the community is invited to help assemble the kits for kids. We put a few up so you can see what they are. Often When a child is removed from a home it is an emergency situation. So social workers will take a child back to the office and sometimes they can wait for some time to find a safe placement. A lot of foster kids come into care with nothing. Maybe because they didn’t have anything to take or because there wasn’t a lot of time to gather anything. In most cases if they do take something with them kids are handed a black trash bag to put their stuff in. So Crystal has a heart to make a child feel seen in this season…
A comfort is a reusable bag filled with things that can fill both physical and emotional needs. It can be things like a snack or water bottle to meet those tangible need but also items that can give them things like coloring, toys or games for something to do. Sometimes there are items of comfort… Crystal challenges us to think about how we feel when we are out of our normal environment. Many times children are frightened and scared of the dark so things like flashlights, blankets and stuffed animals.
These comfort kits are not only a way to love on kiddos but also a way to support social workers doing the hard job. It’s a tool they can use to help comfort and connect during a really hard time for kiddos.
As a family we have a heart to support LAOK and also our local county…
We have a lot of people who ask us what is upstairs in the cottage…
And the answer is that we use it for prop storage but also our local county doesn’t have a storage space for the number of back packs so we use the upstairs in the cottage to house many back packs. And then when County Social workers need them one of their social workers will come and pick them up.
Our local county social worker shared with us a very powerful story of a little girl. This little girl was removed pretty quickly and she was heartbroken because she wasn’t able to say goodbye to her friends at school. Then she was given a Comfort Kit. Turns out she loved cats and this back pack had hello kitty stuff in it… and a stationary kit so she could write a goodbye note to her friends. Ugh. This one made me tear up! The Lord knew that on a hard day this would be something that she would needed.
A stranger collected the items. Not knowing anything about who it would go to. But yet all of those details matter!
There are over 800 kids who enter into foster care in Stanislaus County each year. Each of those numbers have a name. These kids matter! They are all individual. And each comfort kit is unique right down to an encouraging note to say that these kids are loved and seen. And they get to have something all of their own.
Here is a video of the Comfort Kit Drive from last hear so you can see how it all comes together!
Another project coming back to our area is Safe Families…
Safe Families is a place where families can stand in the gap for other families. It’s not full on foster care but it is an option where someone could be a temporary solution for a safe place for a child. This option keeps families in tact but offers extra help to families who need it. You can find more information on their website…
There are a variety of option where you can step in to help local families
Paraphrased from Martin Luther King Jr. – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”
Love this quote so much… there is such a temptation to walk a safe life… but there is such richness in pursuing hard and important things. Support is needed for kids, for foster families, and social workers. People matter! These kids matter! And Love All Our Kids offers us a real tangible way to make a difference.
We know that there are real world problems in our community and in our world. And some of those problems require a big fix. And when Jared and I were going through foster parent training there was someone in the back row who said “we have a very broken system… can you tell me how you’re going to fix it?” And I just remember the teacher of the training saying… “one loving foster parent at a time!” We can not change everything. And we can’t do it all. But TOGETHER WE CAN DO A LOT!
Also… If you are someone who is interested in more information regarding becoming a foster parent but maybe you want to talk with someone who has walked that road ahead of you… I would love to connect personally with you. (Crystal said she’d be open to questions too!) For us our first step was having dinner with a couple we knew and trusted and asked those hard questions to!
We have seen the giveaways have made such an impact as have started telling the stories. So because we believe whole heartedly in what Crystal is doing we are going to donate 2 pop-in portrait gift certificates. We want to connect the community to what Love All Our Kids is doing. So here’s the scoop with the giveaway… Click here…
1- make sure to follow @loveallourkids and @koriandjared on IG
2- Like our giveaway post and share it to your story using the little share icon. (Make sure to tag us so we can see it)
3- Then comment on our giveaway post telling us you entered and we wanna know… what is one thing you can think of that a child would love in a comfort kit…
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