A baby shower is a rite of passage for new moms and dads, but not all new parents are showered with gifts.
"Having a foster child is not like when you have a biological child and someone throws you a shower," said Jacqueline Cruz, events and communications coordinator with Christian Family Care. "Foster families don't know how many kids will be in their house each night, and they can get new kids from one day to the next.
"If we have equipment such as backpacks, school supplies and clothes ready for them, it makes it much easier on the foster families."
Established in 1982, Christian Family Care is Arizona's largest nonprofit foster-care and adoption agency.
Cruz and a group of Christian Family Care volunteers are doing their best to ensure that foster parents are prepared for new arrivals with the Third Annual Back-2-School Bowling Bash from noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 24 at Brunswick Camino Seco Bowl, 114 S. Camino Seco.
They're hoping to make enough money to provide at least 100 backpacks filled with school supplies for foster children in Southern Arizona. Christian Family Care recruits and trains foster and adoptive families.
The annual fundraiser is a huge help to foster families, who receive a monthly stipend from the state to cover room and board for each foster child. The stipend is based on the age of the child and averages about $22 a day.
"On average it costs $600 to get a child ready for school," Cruz said. "That includes not just a backpack and basic supplies and art supplies, but also clothes, shoes and fees and equipment for extracurricular activities and sports."
The backpacks hold more than just necessary supplies for children who are often pulled from their homes with only the clothes they are wearing, Cruz said.
"This gives the kids something of their own. A backpack helps them feel more secure and feel like they have something to hold on to," she said.
There are 14,000 children in the foster-care system in Arizona; about 400 are adoptable and in need of permanent homes.
"It takes a special, compassionate individual to accept children into their homes and to desire to nurture and care for them and to provide a stable environment that exposes them to a loving family structure they have never experienced in their lives," said Kristine Grey, placement coordinator for Christian Family Care.
That is particularly pertinent for Christian Family Care, which focuses on children who are often viewed by society as un-adoptable. It also works hard to keep siblings together, which can make placement more difficult.
The organization recently launched ConnectOne (www.connectonenow.org) for the purpose of finding adoptive homes for high-risk children: older school-age, sibling groups, and teens in danger of aging out of the foster-care system without family support.
Since last year 109 children have been highlighted through the program, and 41 have been placed for adoption.
"Once a child ages out of the foster-care system with no connection to a family, statistically 70 percent of those kids end up on drugs or in prison or on the streets," Cruz said. "We want them to establish a connection to a family before that."
If you go
• What: Third Annual Back-2-School Bowling Bash to benefit Christian Family Care.
• When: Noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 24.
• Where: Brunswick Camino Seco Bowl, 114 S. Camino Seco.
• Cost: $25 per person; $75 for teams of five or six; $250 for a lane sponsorship.
• Sign up: Bowlers can sign up individually to join a team of other bowlers or sign up as a team captain and collect tax-deductible pledges to benefit Christian Family Care foster and adoption programs. Lane sponsorships are tax-deductible and include a banner advertisement over the lane. Festivities will include giveaways of dental products, raffles and prizes and the opportunity to meet foster families and children. For more information or to make an online donation, go to bowl4kids.com or call 561-8334. Prospective foster parents can go to cfcare.org or call 561-8334.
• Donate: Donations of backpacks and school supplies (such as pencils, pens, markers, binders, notebook paper, erasers, crayons, safety scissors, calculators and other supplies) for Christian Family Care are being accepted at Freddy's Steakburgers at 3725 W. Orange Grove Road in Marana and 7120 E. Broadway. Donations can also be dropped at Christian Family Care's Family Attic Thrift Store, 1066 S. Pantano Road.
Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at email@example.com