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Community resource: Office Moms & Dads helps kids through trauma

Kazoodles Toys

Imagine being a child whose family is in trauma. You’ve just been pulled out of your home. You’re sitting in an office wondering what’s going to happen to you. You’re scared and upset. Whatever has just gone on, you just want to go home.

Now imagine being a child welfare worker in the foster care system. You’re calling number after number, trying to find a foster home to take in the child who was just brought in. You’re trying to comfort the child, keep her entertained and supervised, and process the mound of paperwork that goes with every situation.

Enter Office Moms & Dads. These trained volunteers step in to provide child care for children in emergency situations, allowing the social worker to focus on the child’s immediate future.

Office Moms & Dads is a Vancouver-based nonprofit founded by Sarah Desjarlais, who saw the need while at the DCYF (Department of Children, Youth and Families) office when she was a foster mom. “I saw kids running through the office,” she said. Social workers were “chasing kids, trying to babysit while filling out court documents.” She discovered the turnover rate among social workers was “through the roof.”

“We need, as a community, to support our social workers,” she said. “What if the community did child care?”

With co-founder Kim Karu, Sarah got permission, recruited some friends from church, and soon had a cadre of trained volunteers ready to step in when those emergency calls came.

“We watch kids who have just been removed from their homes,” she said. “They’ve just undergone trauma. It takes hours to find foster placement. (Children) were listening to rejection after rejection, re-traumatizing the kids who have just been through trauma.”

Soon other foster care offices got wind of the group, and Office Moms & Dads is now active in 22 offices in Washington and Idaho, with more than 500 volunteers.

They keep a stockpile of care boxes containing fresh underwear, socks, snacks and coloring books to help fill the time in the office. They also work with the Assistance League of Southwest Washington to supply clothes and books to foster children. And, as a bonus, many Office Moms & Dads volunteers have become foster parents.

Want to help? Buy raffle tickets! We’re raffling 13 great toys for Kazoodles’ 13th birthday March 2. And 10% of our sales that day will go to Office Moms & Dads. Want to help more and become a volunteer? Visit www.officemomsanddads.com.

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