May is National Foster Care Month—a time to raise awareness about foster care and to support and give recognition to foster parents, as well as all of the other individuals and professionals who play a vital role in helping children and youth in the system. Whether it’s volunteers, family members, social workers, policy makers, or other community members—including foster parents themselves—those committed to promoting child welfare are true heroes in the eyes of many.
There are 420,000-plus youth and children in foster care in the United States, split nearly equally between boys and girls. For more than 50%, the goal is reunification with their parent(s) or primary caregiver(s); for about 30%, the aim is to be placed in permanent care with an adoptive family.
No matter the outcome, what’s important to remember is when a child enters the foster care system, they likely feel alone, afraid, anxious, maybe abandoned, and traumatized. Those are the emotions Vic and Vickie Bennett sensed when they first met Xander, now their thriving, adopted grandchild, who came into their lives through foster care. The Bennetts have always felt a calling to rescue at-risk kids. With Xander in their lives, that calling became a life mission.
Through Lavender Life Company, the Bennetts began producing organic lavender baby products and soothing textiles. But, their a-ha moment came when they created their microwaveable, lavender-filled plush bunnies, which they named Xander Bunnies. They realized that for every bunny they sold, they could donate one to a child in the foster care system.
“Lavender is known to be calming and can reduce anxiety and promote sleep—all of which are critical needs of kids in trauma,” the Bennetts say. “No matter the child’s status or unsettling background, the bunny could give them a tangible ‘hug’ and perhaps send them a message that they are loved and they are not alone.”
Several years and thousands upon thousands of bunnies later (and now dogs, too!) their mission has become a movement—and has expanded further with the Community Partners program, which engages with organizations across the country and mobilizes them to get these warmable, comforting stuffed animals in the hands of foster children in their areas. In addition, there’s the Friends of the Bunny program, where individuals can donate both bunnies and the Volunteer at the Barn opportunity, where corporate teams and community philanthropic groups can lend their support.
The efforts made by all involved—from gift givers and donors to community partners and volunteers to parents and families—can make a tangible difference in a foster child’s life.
This quote from a grateful foster mom in Iowa sums up the impact that can be made:
“This past week our four foster sons each received a blue Xander Dog from Lavender Life. It's one of the first new things they have ever received. I wish you could've seen the delight and squeals of joy. That night, for the first time since they were rescued from horrific conditions, they immediately fell asleep and slept all night. I cannot thank you enough for giving of yourselves to these dear little boys we hope to soon call our own. You are a true blessing!”
Those interested in participating in Lavender Life’s foster care support programs can contact Vic at Victor@suitefab.com or 616-481-3349.