In summer 2015, a game-changing project for children who are headed for foster care was begun by a couple in Rutland, Elizabeth and Alex Grimes. They named it Tatum’s Totes after their 5-month old son, Tatum, who died suddenly of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It was a devastating loss to the whole family, but just two months later Elizabeth’s decision for them to become licensed foster parents was what turned that devastation around. Along with that, her creation of the Tatum’s Totes project is bringing hope to foster children throughout Rutland County that has also spilled over into Addison, Windham and Bennington Counties.
Green Mountain United Way (GMUW) is now in partnership with Tatum’s Totes to also bring this program to children in Washington Co. and now to Newport. We are collecting new backpacks and children’s items to be bagged and ready to be donated to any child moving to a foster family and dealing with this sudden transition. Pam Bailey of GMUW is working closely with the State of VT Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) to identify the children and to make sure that backpacks (or Tatum’s Totes) are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“Every day children enter foster care with absolutely nothing or little to nothing. These children deserve more than that. The plan is to help make this transition as easy as possible for them. GMUW can help bring this amazing program to the Barre DCF District and now to the Newport are DCF District,” says Pam Bailey.
Many times, children and teenagers moving to foster care arrive with only the clothes on their backs and no other possessions. Having a Tatum’s Tote filled with basic clothing, hygiene items, a game, book and a blanket or stuffed animal for security can make it a much more positive move. There are nearly 1,400 children currently in state custody yet only about 1,200 licensed foster families. Nationally, there are approximately 300,000 children in foster care and almost half of those wait three years or more before being adopted, meaning that those years are spent bouncing from foster home to foster home.
The backpacks will include such items as blankets, books, toothbrushes and toothpaste, coloring books and crayons, stuffed animals, shampoo, socks, hats, mittens and games. A full list of suggested items are listed below and are kept updated on a monthly basis or you can get more information by calling Pam at 802-613-3989 or emailing her at email@example.com. Please show “Tatum’s Totes Project” in the subject line. Monetary donations clearly marked for this project, payable to GMUW, are also encouraged.
Suggested Items Needed for Tatum’s Totes (updated 10/7/16):
Items should be new and should be able to fit into a backpack.
Teen Boy & Girls – Items we are currently in need of:
- Boy’s Backpacks
- Teen Boy’s Personal Hygiene Items: Body wash, Axe body wash and spray, Deodorant, Lotion, Toothpaste, Toothbrushes, Combs, Hair brushes, Shampoo & Conditioner
- Teen Boy’s Items: Card games, Notebooks/Journal, Pens, Water Bottles
- Teen Girls: Water Bottles
- Teen Boy and Girl blankets
Items for young children:
- Jumbo Crayons
- Kids toothpaste
- Diaper Bags (both boys and girls)
- Water Bottles
- Baby Bottles
General Items needed on an ongoing basis:
Baby & Children’s Items: Baby and toddler books, Baby blankets, Baby onesies, Baby toys, Backpacks, Baseball caps, Blankets, Board games, Body wash, Children’s books, Children’s toothbrushes, Children’s toys (dolls, trucks, etc.), Colored pencils, Coloring books, Crayons, Diaper bags, Diapers, Drawing pads, Flashlights, Growth charts, Hair bows, Hair brushes, Markers, Mittens, Night lights, Shampoo and conditioner, Sippy cups, Slippers, Socks, Stuffed animals, Toothpaste, Winter hats
Teenage Items: Axe body wash and spray, Backpacks, Body wash, Card games, Deck of cards, Deodorant, Fleece blankets, Hair brushes, Hairspray, Journal/Notebook, Lotion, Makeup, Nail polish, Pen, Ponytail holders, Shampoo and conditioner, Slippers, Socks, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Wallets/purses, Walmart gift cards, Water bottles