Kenosha women open 'Foster Closet' to help children in need

Kenosha County has seen a recent increase in the number of children in foster care. Officials there say a growing problem with opioid addiction has led to more children needing emergency placement.

And as that happens, there's a new effort in the county to help those children get the items they need to start over. It's called the Foster Closet of Kenosha.

About a year ago, a group of women at the First Christian Church in Kenosha wanted to help the foster families in their congregation by giving the children clothing.

But in June, they decided to expand their reach and help any foster family in the county. And now, Maria Braun's basement is full of storage bins.

"We've accepted over 600 items this week alone," she said.

Her home is now the headquarters for the Foster Closet of Kenosha. They work under the ministry of their church, but offer help to any foster family in Kenosha County.

"Sometimes kids come with nothing at all, sometimes they come with one pair of underwear, the clothes oftentimes they come with are too small," she said.

When a child is placed in a new foster home, the parents can call Braun and she will put a special bag together for that child.

"We will automatically throw in a brand new pair of socks and underwear and then we will ask their sizes," she said.

She gives them about a week's worth of clothing, to help with the transition for both the children and the parents.

"There's a lot that comes out of a foster parent's pocket that the general public and our community doesn't realize," she said.

She has clothes of all sizes, from premature babies to 18-year-olds.

Kenosha County currently has 152 children in regular foster care, 44 in treatment foster care, and about 110 foster families.

Ron Rogers, the Director of the Kenosha County Division of Children and Family Services says last year they only had about 100 children in foster care, and he attributes the increase to the rising opioid epidemic, as more cases involve drug addiction.

He said they really need about 20 more families in the county and are always looking for potential foster parents.

With school starting soon, Braun says she hopes to become a resource for any foster family who just needs a little extra help.

"Watching the kids go into a bag and pull out clothing that fits them, that's current to date and doesn't have stains or holes and is clean, they are so excited and so are the foster parents and that's one of the greatest joys to see," she said.

Right now, she says their greatest needs are clothes for premature babies, pajamas for school-age children, new socks and underwear, and gift cards for teenagers to buy clothes.

She says donations can be dropped off at First Christian Church, 13022 Wilmot Rd. in Kenosha between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. They accept new and gently used clothing and shoes.

Gift cards can be mailed to that same address for the church.

They are also registered at Target under the name "Foster Closet" and they update the registry with items they need most.

If you would like to contact the Foster Closet of Kenosha, send them a message on Facebook.


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