DHR needs public’s help to meet children’s needs

Published 4:23 am Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A child in need is a child in need.

At the Escambia County Department of Human Resources, it’s their mission to do what they can to help. Now, they’re asking for the public’s help in accomplishing that mission.

Currently, more than 50 children are living in foster care, who live in the county’s 13 foster homes and others in surrounding counties. There is a huge need for foster families, supplies and donations for those children and families.

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“When children, for whatever reason, are placed into foster care, they show up here with nothing,” said Stephanie Paul, ECHD service supervisor. “That means sometimes all they have are the clothes on their back. No toothbrush, no pajamas — nothing.”

A recent drive to raise basic toiletries proved successful, but more items are needed.

“Oftentimes, when something is needed, the caseworker will go to Walmart and spend their own money to buy it,” she said. “Then, they have to wait for reimbursement from the state. Donations help us to immediately meet the need of the child and family. That’s why they’re so important to what we do.

“When we expressed our first need, the community stepped up, and we’re grateful,” she said. “But, we always need these kinds of donations. It’s like when you are getting ready to welcome a new baby into the house. All those items that you need, we need, too.

“Also, we need those items for all ages,” she said. “If they’re a baby, we need diapers and wipes, but if they’re a student, we need school supplies, too.”

Currently, the staff is working to update and outfit two family visitation rooms with new TVs, paint, furniture and toys.

Paul said when families use the facility, the spaces are also used as a sort of playroom for younger children.

“But we have to find volunteers to do the work,” she said. “The TVs and mounts have been donated, but we need someone to install them.”

The department is also searching for the donation of a multi-passenger van for two upcoming teen trips through its teen independent living program.

“Sometimes we have teens that cannot return to the home, and it’s our job to prepare them for life as they age out of the foster care system,” Paul said. “That’s what this program is. Currently, we have about 10 participants. If we don’t prepare them, we’re not doing our job.”

The department is also in dire need of school uniforms of all sizes for all county schools.

“Whatever you can do to help would be appreciated,” Paul said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as a gift card to an area restaurant or something as big as a baby bed. It will all be used.”

Anyone wishing to help with donations of items or funds is asked to contact Paul at (251) 809-2024.

Brewton Standard publisher Stephanie Nelson wrote this story.