PORTLAND, Ore — There is a new resource for foster families in Oregon who face unique challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As many Oregonians face insecurities in this season, foster families feel that even more. Kids from hard places, kids who've experienced trauma, feel the trauma of this season even more acutely," executive director of Every Child Brooke Gray said.
There are currently 4,082 foster families caring for more than 7,000 kids in Oregon right now and many are struggling for basic needs during the coronavirus crisis.
A lot of foster parents are relatives who receive children with little notice. Many committed to take in children while they were working full-time jobs and receiving a steady paycheck. Now, a large portion of the state's foster parents are out of work or are having a hard time getting the resources they need to weather this pandemic, according to Gray.
My NeighbOR is a 36-county decentralized community mobilization effort designed to match community goods and services with foster families and youth in foster care who need them.
The initiative is a direct partnership between Every Child Oregon and the Oregon Department of Human Services to launch this comprehensive statewide emergency response to the fast-growing needs of children and families in Oregon's foster care system.
“Those staying at home in fraying situations are going to need help. We need each neighbor in Oregon to consider how they can step forward safely. My NeighbOR will bring us all together,” said Ben Sand, CEO for The Contingent, Every Child’s parent organization.
Foster families across Oregon have needs due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Systems and networks meant to care for those in foster care -- and the foster families who serve them -- are being challenged and taxed with growing needs, according to The Contingent.
School closures, significant economic changes, and a limited pool of foster homes are adding additional strain to our state’s current capacity. Those who work closely with foster families are asking the community to step up and help.
“The welfare of children, youth, and families is the responsibility of our entire community. This My NeighbOR collaboration is the perfect demonstration that partnerships, shared resources, and collective efforts are needed to best support children and families. This will be a shining example of how Oregonians support each other when in need,” says Rebecca Jones Gaston, DHS child welfare director.
Taking advantage of the increased number of Oregonians on the internet right now, My NeighbOR is taking a two-pronged approach. Staff will receive needs from families and leverage social media, online affinity groups, and targeted ads to invite Oregonians to respond.
Then, when goods and services are offered, My NeighbOR will either use pre-screened drivers to deliver or invite community members to drop goods designated “Community Anchor Sites,” which are highly local, public locations where items can be dropped off and picked up.
More than 440 donors have stepped up to help so far and My NeighbOR has been able to set up 44 drop-off/pick-up sites.
"Already, I have to say, the needs are so humble and such an easy thing for community members to provide. Things like; we just need groceries and some bleach," Gray said. "On the flip side [we're] seeing the sweetest response from Oregonians saying, 'I will do anything I can. Here's $50 to help provide a need for a family.' Or, 'I'm going to be at the grocery store today, what else can I pick up?'"
If you are an Oregon foster family or a youth in foster care, share your need at everychildoregon.org/need
If you want to meet a need for foster families, visit everychildoregon.org/myneighbor