(Photo of Madeleine Roy, Marketing Director of GMUW (left) and Tammy Lalime, Resource Coordinator at State of Vermont Dept. of Children & Families – Newport District)
Last summer, 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.
This past winter, Green Mountain United Way (GMUW) partnered with Tatum’s Totes to also bring this program to children in Washington Co. and has just recently expanded it to Orleans and Northern Essex Counties.
GMUW is collecting backpacks and other totes and fills them with age-appropriate personal hygiene items, basic clothing, a stuffed animal, some books and games, a fuzzy blanket and other items to be given to children going into foster care.
Many times, children and teenagers are moved into a foster home at a moment’s notice and arrive with only the clothes on their back. Having one’s own bag of items they can call their own can make a world of difference when entering an unknown home. GMUW is working closely with the State of VT Dept. of Children and Families in the Newport office to make sure that backpacks are ready when needed. “On behalf of our foster children, I want to thank the local United Way for the generous donations. Their gifts mean that children will no longer be moving into foster care using a plastic bag and will have new backpacks, water bottles and other needed supplies to call their own. Your generosity is overwhelming and much needed for our children and families,” says Tammy Lalime, Resource Coordinator at the Newport DCF office.
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.
A full list of suggested items that go into the backpacks can be found at www.gmunitedway.org/blog/green-mountain-united-way-leads-tatums-totes-effort/. For information on how you can help on this project, call the GMUW Derby Line office at 802-647-2148. GMUW is proud to be leading this Tatum’s Totes effort with the hope of easing the transition of children and teens into new home situations.