A new nonprofit has opened its doors in De Pere. It's called Foster the Village, as in, it takes a village to raise a child. With 100 families currently opening their homes to hundreds of children in Brown County who've been abused or neglected, leaders say the organization will fill an important need in our community.
Kristen Kolaszewski of Suamico is helping spread the word about Foster the Village. After having two daughters of her own and exploring adoption, she said the decision to take in a foster child was easy.
"You see the signs all over, 'Foster Parents Needed,' and so we felt like we wanted to stay in our community and help kids that needed homes."
The transition period, though, can be challenging.
"Kids when they come into care often come in with very little, often times just the clothes on their back."
She said foster families can feel overwhelmed having to get new clothing, shoes, diapers, car seats and other necessities for the children they'll be caring for.
"We get a small stipend from the county to buy what they need when they first come into care, but it only goes so far."
Now, they can turn to Foster the Village for help.
"This I think is something that we hope makes it easier for them to be great foster families and maybe even encourages other people to get involved, because maybe that barrier to being a foster family or foster parent is maybe just a little bit lower now that they might have some of these necessities that they need," said Board Member Adam Sutter.
Sutter helped open the Foster the Village closet just last week. It's a couple of rooms in the basement of a De Pere business that are filled with new and gently used clothing, toys and even school supplies.
"Backpacks, notebooks and things like that."
Sutter said it's set up to feel like a store.
"We wanted to make it kind of as close to a shopping-like experience as it can be, especially as kids are older and they want to come in and maybe pick out some of their own stuff."
Everything is free to foster families.
"It's a relief," Kolaszewski chuckled.
It's all made possible through generous donations from the public.
"The fact that the community has come together to support these kids is just a blessing," she said.
Kolaszewski has now adopted the 17-month-old girl her family has been fostering.
"We've just taken her in and loved her and watched her grow and develop and achieve and surpass all of her milestones, and that's what we want to continue to do for her is just bring her into the fold as one of our own."
Kolaszewski hopes with the support of Foster the Village, more children in need of a loving home will find one.
Right now, the nonprofit is in great need of pajamas and boys' clothing, especially bigger sizes. If you'd like to donate to the closet or use it to fill your fostering needs, you can schedule an appointment to drop-off or pickup supplies by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About 250 children are in foster care in Brown County, but there is shortage of foster homes to care for them all. Click here to learn more about becoming a foster family.