A Green Country non-profit, created to help meet the basic needs for Oklahoma foster children, is expanding to help in a different way.
Fostering Hope in Muskogee is where foster children can go to get some of the things most people take for granted.
“We're kind of a hybrid here in our state. We serve children all over the state, not just in our hometown,” said Fostering Hope co-founder Annie Czaruk.
The initial cost of adding a foster child, or children, to a household can be a lot for some families and Czaruk said when a child is placed in foster care, it usually takes several weeks for foster families to receive financial help from the state.
“[The children] usually come with shoes that don't fit or no shoes at all and what they can carry in a trash bag,” said Czaruk. “I had no idea that was right under our nose within our state until I was in the middle of it.”
Czaruk wanted to make a difference so she and a friend started Fostering Hope 5 years ago.
“We just kind of started in one teeny, tiny little room. It was like a building just for storage,” she said. “We would steal our husband's shoes and children's clothes and call friends and neighbors and say, 'Hey, there's a foster child we need to help today and he's a size 10 shoe or 3T clothing’ and so we'd reach out that way and get those basic needs met to start with.”
The non-profit now has office space at the corner of 10th and Broadway in Muskogee. Its rooms are filled to the brim with tubs full of the things needed to help turn a child’s life around.
Fostering Hope provides foster children with emergency “Bags of Hope” after placement. They get seven days’ worth of clothes, along with shoes, sheets, diapers, formula, toiletries, toys, books, bibles and backpacks.
“This is beautiful and important work. It's really hard to be in the trenches sometimes with children, but I know it's the right thing to do,” said Czaruk.
Annie's now opening the Fostering Hope House, where children can go with a social worker for a few hours while waiting for placement. She came up with the idea after an encounter she had last fall.
“I met a caseworker at DHS and made a bag for a baby and he was still pretty grimy and dirty and just looked really tired and she mentioned that they had to give him a bath in the public sink there at DHS and I was floored,” said Czaruk.
At the Fostering Hope House, children can take a real bath, get clean clothes and grab a bite to eat.
“We want to give them back their dignity in a way that maybe they've never even seen,” she said.
It's designed to feel like a home should, safe. It has a couch and TV, a kitchen, crib, books and toys. It also has a creation station where children can write, color or draw.
“With this space, I've tried to be really intentional with every single detail,” said Czaruk. “I want it to be a place where children and just be kids.”
Fostering Hope and Fostering Hope House are privately operated. They work closely with the state but do not receive state funds. Their outreach is only possible through grant money and donations.
“We have seen Oklahomans come through in the most gracious ways, Czaruk said.
The generosity of others is not only giving children a safe place to go but also showing them how special and valued they really are.
“We want each child to be given a seed of hope and they’ll have big, strong roots and grow into these beautiful trees, that’s our logo, and know that they're loved and that God loves them and that they're not alone."
The Fostering Hope House is now looking for volunteers.
And while the non-profit doesn't get any money from the state, it works closely with DHS and Annie says the state will pay for background checks for all volunteers.
For more information on how to get involved, Click Here.