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Back 2 School events provides clothing and school supplies to foster children

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“Our goal is to make sure that if you look at a group of second-graders on the first day of school, you won’t be able to tell which are the foster children by what they are wearing,” said Toni Lee, director of operations at Citizens Caring for Children (CCC).

By the time school starts in August, Lee and Executive Director Lynne Roller expect to have seen around 600 pre-K through high school-aged kids, all in foster care. Each child will leave Citizens Caring for Children with one new outfit, new shoes, socks, underwear and a brand-new backpack filled with grade-appropriate school supplies at no cost. The Back 2 School program is July 25-30.

“Last year, we were able to outfit 535 foster children for back to school,” said Lauren Barnes, CCC director of development and communications. “We are seeing an increase in our Back 2 School program and also general increase in need for our year-round program.”

According to Roller, that increase can be attributed to three main factors: the volume of layoffs and downsizing, ongoing devastating cuts to Oklahoma’s state budget and word of mouth.

“We know the word is getting out,” Roller said, “and we have worked hard to establish and grow our partnerships with foster placement agencies in the state.”

The clothing the vast majority of the children receive at Citizens Caring for Children will be the first new article of clothing they have ever owned in their lives. Lee told a poignant story of one small girl who had never owned a new pair of shoes and didn’t know they came in boxes.

Lasting help

This is the 12th year CCC has offered a back-to-school program. During the rest of the year, the organization is dedicated to providing children and teens in foster care with new clothing.

“Each foster child can visit CCC four additional times each year,” Lee said.

On each regular visit, the children receive two bottoms, two tops, three pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, one pair of shoes, one pair of pajamas, two books and a coat if it’s winter. On a child’s initial visit, they receive a duffel bag filled with toiletries, a brush or comb, a towel, a washcloth, a blanket, a pillowcase and a stuffed animal. All visits are by appointment only.

“Kids in foster care have often had to flee from home with nothing but the clothing they are wearing,” Roller said. “They may have moved from place to place, be starting a new school and  traumatized. We want to help give them self-confidence and make them feel special.”

During the Back 2 School event, a cadre of volunteers will serve as personal shoppers, accompanying the children through the shopping experience and helping them decide which clothes they will take home.

“Starting the school year with new clothes to wear the first day helps kids feel good about themselves,” Roller said.

For CCC to clothe a foster child for a year — four regular visits plus the Back 2 School visit — it costs an average of $500 per child. And that figure doesn’t include volunteer labor.

“There is a screening process for volunteers, and CCC does background checks on anyone who will have direct interaction with the children,” Lee said. “Really, we just need help, and we want to help as many foster children as possible.”

Appointments must be made in advance for each child participating in the Back 2 School program. Visit cccokc.org or call 405-753-4099.

Print Headline: Life supplies, Citizens Caring for Children’s Back 2 School program provides foster children with needed clothing and supplies.

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