Supporting Foster Kids

By on Aug 29, 2018 in Giving

The Yardi Marketing Department recently gathered for its second annual summer conference in Goleta, Calif, and the event concluded with a community service activity that was especially meaningful to two members of the team.

Marketing Department Members used their creativity and empathy to decorate duffel bags for Santa Barbara County children in the process of being removed from their current homes and taken to foster care by social workers or law enforcement. The bags were filled with items like stuffed toys, a blanket, hygiene supplies, coloring books and more and picked up that afternoon by the non-profit organization Together We Rise, a national effort to support foster youth. Included were supportive cards made by the marketing team with positive and inspiring messages.

Transitioning to foster care is a stressful process that can be traumatic for the kids. Foster dad Nick Koonce, manager of web services for marketing, knows this due to the experience of his foster daughter, who is now a successful college student.

“Her parents were unable to care for her, due to their substance abuse, mental health issues and frequent incarceration. She had been raised by her elderly grandparents, who passed away and she was left with no one able to be responsible for her. She came to us wanting for nothing of material value. All she needed was a stable foundation, encouragement, understanding and love,” Koonce recalled.

But as part of the experience of leaving her former home, the belongings she needed to take with her were tossed into a garbage bag.

“A suitcase or duffle bag would have spared our daughter some psychological damage during a very traumatic transition. Placing her possessions in a garbage bag sent her the message that she and her belongings were disposable,” noted Koonce.

He did some research and learned more about the realities such programs face.

“California’s Department of Social Services and their Child Protective Services wing, is a very challenged bureaucracy that lacks the funding to provide such luxuries as a duffle bag. Luckily, the foster youth they serve, receive a lot of support from local non-profit organizations. As an aside, I’ve been inspired to form a supporting non-profit and you can learn more on the website”

The volunteer activity was organized by Lexi Beausoleil, a marketing campaigns specialist in Santa Barbara who volunteers in her free time as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in foster care.

“In Santa Barbara County alone, we have about 50 abused or neglected children that enter foster care every month. The removal can be very traumatic as little ones don’t always understand what’s happening. Children of any age can feel like they are the ones being punished and like they and their feelings don’t matter,” Beausoleil said.

“And in most cases when a child is removed they are given just a garbage bag to quickly gather a few clothes and personal items. That’s why I am so pleased that organizations like Together We Rise have recognized this opportunity to do more to support these kids by providing the duffel bags that we decorated with cheerful images and messages and filled with items designed to bring comfort and reassurance. The blanket that’s included is even wrapped with the message, ‘You matter.’”

Given her own experiences with the CASA program, Beausoleil knows that a duffle bag might seem like a small gift, but it is likely to make a big difference. And those homemade cards might provide words of comfort when they are needed most.

“Thinking back on the kids I’ve worked with and how hard those first few weeks were for them, it makes me so happy to know that now there will be some kids who have a little bit better experience, whose day is just a little less hard because of the gift of these bags that we made for them here at Yardi.  I also hope that our activity will result in others being inspired to support children in foster care even more by volunteering as a CASA or supporting Together We Rise,” she said.

Yardi is Energized for Good. Learn more about the efforts of our teams and the non-profits the Yardi Foundation supports on our Giving page.