Foster Care in Vermont & Barre's New Clothing Closet

As families prepare for going back to school, remember the children and youth who are in foster care. While it's a hectic time for everyone, it can be particularly unsettling for children and youth who are not able to return to their birth or adoptive families.  The Department for Children and Families seeks Vermonters to step forward and offer foster, kin, or occasional respite care. Explore the process of becoming a licensed foster parent to a child or youth in need by filling out the Foster Care Inquiry Form. Staff at each of the 12 Family Services Division district offices can field inquiries as well.

Barre's New Clothing Closet

By Guest Blogger, Mary L Collins, DCF, Family Services Division

Exterior picture of Clothing ClosetWalk past this historic building in downtown Barre and you might never know that inside lies a bounty of clothing, supplies and toys for children and youth that has been gathered over the past year by Recruitment & Retention Specialist, Alona Tate, for the Barre District Family Services Division of DCF. 

With more than 1100 children and youth in foster care throughout Vermont, the needs for clothing, back to school supplies and comfort items is great.

"I reached out to some of our community partners and was delighted to hear from Barre Rotary who helped us to secure this historic space." Tate explained. "Barre Rotary completely renovated the space, including putting in shelving and floor coverings, as well as obtaining supplies and support from Calvin Wilson at Wilson Woodworks for new shelving." She adds, "Rotary does a tremendous amount of “hands on work”  within our community!"

The second floor offices have been transformed into a clothing closet with items for all ages.  Tate has cleaned, sorted, organized, displayed and then picks items for foster families who have a child in their care who could benefit from additions to their wardrobe.

"I never know what I might receive and so I spend time sorting and organizing and choosing the best items to make it easier for the families and children."  Tate packs up totes for every family that expresses a need - whether they're fostering a newborn or a growing teenager.  "It's amazing what is donated!" She said.  "One local organization makes beautiful quilts and tote bags by the dozens."  Tate holds up a calico printed baby quilt to show the craftsmanship and care that goes into each item.

Why a clothing closet? 

"We have very little room in our offices to properly sort and store clothing but the needs are there," Tate explained. "This family closet allows us to create a more congenial space for staff and volunteers to work in and for foster families to access what they need in a private, discreet and fun way."

Walking through the two generous rooms, Tate has everything sorted by age and gender identification. She has separated items like totes and back packs, shoes, boots, and baby carriers, bicycles and accessories.  She says it helps her to keep things in order and to be ready when the need arises.

"I pack totes so that the families can just come and pick them up." she said. "They don't have a lot of extra time to shop, so this is a way to provide them and the children with great clothing and other needs in an efficient and quick way."

Why the need?

"Sometimes a child is moved very suddenly and there really isn't time to gather their belongings. This makes it a little less stressful on the child and helps the foster care provider be ready when a child comes to them."

Tate further explains that teens are especially vulnerable.  "Just because you're sixteen, doesn't mean you want to wear uncool clothes."  All sizes from petite to Men's and Women's XX are needed.  "We have a lot more baby clothes than we do items for older preteen and teenagers," she explains.

The Family Closet is open by appointment: contact Alona at (802) 585-9861 or Alona.Tate@vermont.gov.