Late summer is the time of year when kids begin thinking about going back to school and getting ready for a new year with new school supplies and clothing. These are happy memories for many of us. Unfortunately, that is not always the case for the 1100+ children who are in foster care in Bernalillo County at any given time. Many of these children in foster care have never experienced the excitement of getting ready for a new school year with brand new backpacks, school supplies, shoes, and clothing.
With the support of our community partners, New Mexico Kids Matter hosts an annual back-to-school shopping spree for children in foster care in Bernalillo County. As part of this event, each child receives a new backpack filled with the all the school supplies required by Albuquerque Public Schools for their grade. In addition, each child receives a $100 gift card from Target and is taken on a personal shopping spree with their foster parents and a New Mexico Kids Matter staff member or volunteer. The children are able to use their $100 gift card to purchase new clothing and shoes to outfit them for a new school year. It is pure joy to watch as several hundred kids in foster care select hundreds of pairs of shoes, socks, school uniforms and other items of clothing.
The children at our annual back-to-school event often share with us how good it feels knowing they have what they need to start a new school year because many times they have not had these things in the past and they have shown up for a new school year unprepared and feeling ashamed.
Foster families share with us how much this event means to them as well since they often must count on the generosity of others because being a foster parent does not pay for all the things the kids need.