Fostering Together grows with partnerships in Maple Valley
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
October 11, 2012 · Updated 12:06 PM
Little more than a year ago, Lisa Wiscomb saw a need for a foster family support group in Maple Valley.
Since starting a Fostering Together group in July 2011 it has grown so large Wiscomb is in search of a new meeting place because it has outgrown the space it’s used at the Greater Maple Valley Community Center.
“I reached out to Enumclaw and Covington,” Wiscomb said. “We were hoping to get enough people involved so we could put groups in each community, but everyone has grown so close we’ve just kept it the way it is.”
On the fourth Tuesday of every month the group meets to provide training for foster parents, an opportunity for their children to play and socialize with one another while also allowing families to support one another.
“It’s just a fun night for them,” Wiscomb said. “The kids come because they all want to come. It’s become a very close-knit group.”
And while the group has grown so has its partnerships in the community. Earlier this year a church from the Fairwood area started coming to meetings. It began when members of the church asked Wiscomb what she needed during the holidays.
A couple of the teens in the group wanted iPod nanos and the church was able to fill that need. Since then, members of the church have attended the monthly meetings and helped with the children.
“They’ve jumped on board,” Wiscomb said. “Everything just keeps coming together.”
Then came Maple Valley resident Daniel Burleigh, a foster system alumnus who has found success in life and decided to found Social Enterprises, a non-profit designed to give back.
A couple who had adopted six foster children referred Burleigh to Stephanie Swallow, King County Coordinator for Bellevue-based Fostering Together, and Wiscomb.
“I wanted to find a group of foster parents and foster homes in my local community,” Burleigh said. “We have a couple of programs that we’ve launched that benefit foster homes so we needed to find some foster parents to help us pilot those programs.”
Burleigh founded his organization, which now has its federal 501©3 non-profit status, in 2009. Though he has a great career at Microsoft, he feels Social Enterprises is what he is meant to do.
“This is really my life’s work,” he said. “This year we’ve launched two programs and we’re trying to grow them and refine them with feedback from real foster homes and foster parents.”
One of them is called Foster Champs. Through Wiscomb’s group based in Maple Valley, Burleigh has connected with foster families to help Social Enterprises pilot the program, which allows parents to post requests to the non-profit’s website for essential needs for foster children which then allows those in the community to help provide those items.
Donations of $5 can help, he said, to buy something as simple yet appreciated as a package of socks. Foster children also need other basics such as shoes and clothes.
This was inspired by conversations Burleigh had with those who wish to help but didn’t know how.
The kids don’t want anything fancy either, Wiscomb said. They just want something to help them fill those basic needs so they have one less thing to worry about.
Foster parents provide a list of five to 10 items they need, which is then posted to the Social Enterprises website, where monetary donations can be made. Then those items are shipped to Burleigh, who passes them on to Wiscomb who then distributes them.
“I’m a very strong believer that you start in the your own community,” Burleigh said. “This Fostering Together group is very strong right here. Our goal is to scale programs across the United States but we want to learn how to serve the needs of our own foster families in our own community, refine and perfect that process so we can scale it up and grow.”
Another program Burleigh is working on is one in which those who wish to help can purchase a stuffed animal to be delivered with a letter of hope and encouragement from a foster system alumnus to a child when he first enters the system.
“This is delivered to social workers in Seattle … to let children know as they come into the system that they’re not alone and to provide them comfort,” Burleigh said. “As an alumnus of foster care helping to create a system to meet the needs of these youth, these are society’s children, we all have a responsibility to care for these children.”
Burleigh has attended some of the Maple Valley Fostering Together group meetings as well as spoken about his own experiences in the system.
Connecting with Burleigh has been just another part of the group’s growth, Wiscomb said.
It accomplishes an important goal for her to not just bring the families together to support one another but to help the group grow as well as expand its reach.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is raise awareness and that’s why we brought (Burleigh) on, he has an amazing life story,” Wiscomb said. “Foster parenting is not as scary as people think. A lot of people think it’s all or nothing. So many thing the kids are messed up. Now that I’ve done the fostering group, I know the kids are amazing.”
For Burleigh, his message about his life is not intended to focus on his personal success, but rather to show what can be accomplished.
“The end is changing the system, it’s not about my personal success,” he said. “We have a much bigger vision. We want to do a lot more.”
For information about how to support the group, contact Wiscomb at email@example.com.
For more information on Fostering Together log on to www.fosteringtogether.org or call 866-958-KIDS (5437).
To learn more about Social Enterprises, go to www.socialenterprises.org.
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.