For months, foster and adoptive parents have been collecting hundreds of used, thrift store dolls for use in a legislative awareness campaign called the Foster Doll Project. On Tuesday, January 28, volunteers from a coalition of foster care and adoption organizations throughout Minnesota met at the State Capitol pushing baby strollers and pulling wagons to distribute dolls to Minnesota legislators and the governor. Each participating policy-maker became a doll’s de facto foster parent for the upcoming 12-week period.
The Minnesota Foster Care Association (MFCA) and the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) sent three preliminary letters to each of the legislators. The first said they had been nominated as Honorary Foster Parents and included information on general foster care. The second letter said they had been approved to be Honorary Foster Parents and included information on the role of foster parents in Minnesota. The third letter included each legislator’s official Honorary Foster Parent license as well as statistics on children in care in Minnesota and the rate structure and type of out-of-home settings for children.
Approximately 12 different legislators (both Republicans and Democrats) called in advance to express interest in the project, and some requested their dolls before January 28. NACAC and MFCA also found three legislators who were former foster parents. Coordinators have been pleasantly surprised with the interest level. Although they offered dolls to all legislators, those who didn’t want the make-believe experience weren’t pushed into it.
Each doll represents an individual foster child in the system, and came with a name, personality traits, diagnoses and a placement history. Each foster parent will receive updated information on the “child” at regular intervals over the 12-week educational campaign. Volunteers across Minnesota will visit their legislators to raise the awareness of policy-makers to the special needs of our children.
Judy Howell, president of the Minnesota Foster Care Association and co-chair of the project says, “The Foster Doll Project is such an exciting idea! We have parents throughout the state ready to help their legislators understand the needs of our children. Our hope is that policy-makers come to know the day-to-day struggles of foster children, the challenges in parenting these children, and the realities of children with special needs who find their forever family through adoption.”
The main goals for this project are to increase legislative and public awareness of foster care and adoption issues; focus on the importance of finding permanent families for children with special needs; and support families before, during and after placement.
Families will share their experiences as foster and adoptive parents of some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable children, plus older foster and adopted youths will share their struggles growing up in the system. The two coordinating organizations, MFCA and NACAC, are joined by partner organizations including the African American Adoption Agency, American Indian Family and Children’s Services, Children’s Defense Fund-MN, Downey Side, National Foster Parent Association, Transracial Adoption Network and the Professional Association of Treatment Homes.
For more information, contact: Jeanette Wiedemeier Bower, co-chair, at 651-644-3036 or [email protected].