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For Foster Care Month, Erie County honored three local organizations that help our most vulnerable residents

The phrase, it takes a community to raise a child, is never truer than when that child is in need of foster placement. It is an unfortunate reality that for their health and safety, children sometimes need to be placed away from their current guardian. Whether the placement is temporary or eventually permanent, with family or with strangers, these children often struggle with a range of complicated emotions. Some children are gratefully too young to understand, whereas others are all too aware.

It is these stories and experiences that have inspired many across the country to get involved.

Last week, in honor of National Foster Care Month, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz joined Erie County Department of Social Services Commissioner Marie Cannon in praising three local foster care advocates.

“Every child deserves a stable, loving home, and our community is fortunate to have so many in our community willing to foster. However, it is also important to recognize that we each can play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care, even if we are not in a position to foster ourselves,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.

The honored organizations were:

  • Care Cases of Western New York provide high-quality duffle bags for foster children in Western New York that is filled with new items to meet their needs, such as a fleece blanket, stuffed animal, toothbrush & toothpaste, t-shirt, diapers, toiletries, coloring book & crayons, journal & pens, age-appropriate book and/or pajamas. The goal of a Care Case is to provide children in foster care with something of value that they can call their own when they are going through such a traumatic change. Individuals interested in donating can click here to visit their website.
  • Foster Love Closet collects new and gently used infant, child and teen related items to give to those currently in foster care. Among the items provided are clothing, shoes, strollers, high-chairs, bedding, bottles and cups, car seats, cribs, toddler and twin beds. Foster families and children in foster care can pick what they want. They are allowed a week’s worth of clothing, along with pajamas, and extras like accessories, coats, and shoes. They can shop four times a year or when new children are placed in a home. They are located 1159 Town Line Road in Alden. Individuals interested in donating or volunteering can click here visit their website.
  • Western New York Foster & Adoptive Families Association works to improve the future of children in care by establishing and improving communication between foster and adoptive parents and all community systems; promoting continuing education for foster and adoptive parents in our community; and educating the community about child welfare issues. All foster, adoptive, kinship, birth parents have access to the association for issues or concerns for which they may need assistance. Information about this Association can be found here.

According to Child & Family Services serving Western New York, it would take less than 1% of the American population to give every child waiting for adoption in the United States a home.

The goal of Child & Family Services’ Foster Care program is to “strengthen families by helping parents develop the skills they need to provide a safe and stable environment for their children.” However, in these temporary environments, the children are, for their own safety, removed quickly from their environments. This means depending on their age, they have little time or ability to pack their belongings and at the time of removal, it is often not known how long they will be gone. This is where organizations like the ones above come in. They provide much needed items of clothes, toiletries, toys, and objects of comfort.

Sue Snyder, Care Cases said, “we provide duffel bags or suit cases for the children. These cases are packed with all their essentials but we also try to customize the bags. In addition to the items, each bag is marked with a tag personalized with the child’s name, and on the other side a note, ‘You matter.’ We want every child to know that the bag is theirs and that it was packed with love.”

“When most children are removed from their home, they receive a trash bag for their personal items. Since Care Cases was established, we have replaced more than 1,500 trash bags for foster children in Western New York. We do this through community-wide fundraising and packing days,” Paul Snyder added. Anyone interested in donating or participating can click here for more information.

Video by Upworthy | Comfort Cases. Rob Scheer who started Comfort Cases was the inspiration behind WNY’s Care Cases.

According to a 2017 report by the New York State Kids Well-Being Indicators Clearinghouse, Erie County had the following numbers:

  • 4,871 incidents reported for Child Abuse/Maltreatment
  • 554 children were admitted into Foster Care
  • 141 children were discharged to Adoption,
  • 904 children were in foster care (0-21 years)
  • 591 children were discharged from foster care.

Click here for the full report.

“Erie County has a critical need for supportive foster families to temporarily provide hundreds of our most vulnerable children with stable, nurturing homes,” Commissioner Cannon adds that Foster families can be individuals or couples. If any Erie County resident is interested in obtaining information about becoming a foster family, call 858-7274.

Written by Jessica Marinelli

Jessica Marinelli

Jessica Marinelli is an author, speaker, coach, marketer, and business development strategist. Her professional consulting company, MEMC handles all aspects of marketing and business development planning and implementation, assisting with strategic planning initiatives and the creation of marketing action plans, as well as planning and executing private and public events, including: the coaching of individuals, multi-day conferences, as well as other development initiatives. In addition to her work with MEMC, Jessica oversees the day-to-day operations and strategic marketing efforts at Local Matters, Inc. the parent company of Buffalo Rising.

She is active in her community and serves on several non-profit boards, such as WNY Heritage Magazine, O'Connell & Company Productions, and the Women's Business Center (WBC) Advisory Board. She is also a Democratic Committee Member in the Town of Tonawanda. Most recently, She has been asked to serve as the Marketing Consultant for the WBC's COVID Recovery Task Force.

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