By Annika Morschauser
GREEN BAY – The ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renovated youth room at Foster the Village took place on May 23.
The renovation was completed in time for National Foster Care Month, with only a few furniture pieces left to be delivered.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Director of Marketing Erica Plaza explained the purpose of the room.
”The foster youth can come. They can feel comfortable. They can hang out. They can feel safe. A place where they can meet with their friends and gather or perhaps even have a meeting with their birth families,” Plaza said about the space.
“We serve all of the children that are working with Child Protective Services… We serve kids zero to 18. The kids as well as the foster parents or the social workers are able to come into the space,” added Foster the Village Executive Director Cheri Salmon.
Their goal is to create a supportive environment where foster youth and families can shop for clothes, toys, toiletries and school supplies at no cost.
Salmon noted, especially with the older foster youth, it is important to them that they wear new clothes that they enjoy wearing, as they want to fit in with other kids their age which builds their self esteem.
“I think this space is really going to be exciting for them because they’re going to be able to meet with some of the other kids that are also in foster care of their same age, maybe interact with them,” Salmon stated.
The space will also be used as an opportunity for families and social workers to talk with the kids, especially those who have gone through trauma in their transition into the foster care system.
“They’re never really going to look you in the eye and tell you what’s wrong with them, but if you’re interacting or doing something maybe you’re shooting baskets or you’re coloring or doing a craft project maybe they’ll open up and kind of have those conversations with them. So, that’s why I’m so excited about this room,” Salmon explained.
The renovations of the youth room were made possible with the help of Leadership Green Bay along with a number of donors.
Salmon mentioned that the rest of the building is not fully complete, but they are constantly looking for ways to create an even more welcoming space for the kids.
With the increase of the number of children in foster care in Brown County, the need for more renovations in the old St. Jude grade school is even more urgent.
Foster the Village is looking at a $750,000 campaign to transform the space to be more useful for the children and families they work with as it would provide the renovations for more rooms such as this one for other age groups and much more.
“This is really a great step in creating the heart of the village for kids and families. That was our intent and that is what our mission is,” Salmon said.