EMpowerME Packs Give Foster Children Opportunities To Read During The Pandemic

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has changed our plans. It’s put school on hold, left millions jobless, and forced us to distance ourselves from family and friends as we try to slow the spread.

Meanwhile, kids in foster care are falling through the cracks.

“The pandemic has put roadblocks in the way of approval of family members as foster parents, for example social workers are unable to do home visits and fingerprint background checks may not be able to be completed,” the American Bar Association reports. “The pandemic is also likely to result in additional burdens to our child protection systems, particularly as states begin emerging from stay at home orders and calls to the hotlines may surge while the child welfare systems struggle to deal with a backlog of court cases, approvals, and investigations that were put on hold or delayed during the pandemic.”

Foster children may not have books when they arrive at a new home.
Source: Pexels
Foster children may not have books when they arrive at a new home.

While there may not be an immediate solution for these issues, a group of parents from Lincoln, Nebraska, has found a unique and effective way of supporting foster children as they face the coming school year.

One of those parents, Kathleen Ousey, has been creating EMpowerME Packs, a backpack and a set of books, for each child in Lincoln foster care, 10/11 NOW reports.

EMpowerME Packs provide children with a backpack and a set of books.
Source: Pexels
EMpowerME Packs provide children with a backpack and a set of books.

“I have two children of my own, and we go through so many books a day. We feel that is something that connects us as a family,” Ousey said.

While social distancing measures and quarantine protocols are in place, kids have limited access to important education resources like their school and local libraries. Many parents are worried that reading opportunities may be placed on hold during the pandemic. Foster children in particular may not have their own books when they arrive a a new home.

“The children come oftentimes times with a paper sack and a few belongings,” Ousey said. “They don’t come with a lot, sometimes it’s abrupt and they don’t know.”

Libraries may be closed during the pandemic, making it difficult for some children to find new reading opportunities.
Source: Pexels
Libraries may be closed during the pandemic, making it difficult for some children to find new reading opportunities.

Ousey and her colleagues have received support for their EMpowerME Packs from local businesses, their own employers, and donations that came through a crowdfunding campaign. Along with monetary donations, the group is always looking for backpacks.

EMpowerME Packs will help prepare foster kids for the coming school year.
Source: Pexels
EMpowerME Packs will help prepare foster kids for the coming school year.

Help is also appreciated, though Ousey is getting her children involved to spread out the work and teach them about local philanthropy.

“That’s a project we can do together to give back to people who don’t have as much as we do,” she said.

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.

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