Fosterful, a nonprofit organization, is a community of qualified volunteers partnering with child welfare offices to provide a nurturing environment for children entering foster care.
Our volunteers keep children occupied and safe while social workers work behind the scenes to arrange for their long term care, often having conversations not suited for children’s ears.
We fill little bellies that may not have eaten in some time, bring tissues where there are tears, and put stuffies in the arms of kids who have had everything taken from them.
Fosterful’s 5—year vision is to establish and sustain sites throughout Washington and Idaho where children entering care transition with minimal trauma into their foster care placement.
Our dream, while growing thoughtfully and sustainably, is to establish a presence in all 50 states.
We value children. We value communities collaborating on their behalf. We value awareness about foster care. We think that minimizing trauma is key, and so aim to meet the immediate needs of the vulnerable children we serve. We believe in relationships, and seek to steward those through purposeful transparency with our volunteers, social workers, partners and donors. We value the differences that make each of us unique individuals and seek to maintain a respectful and inclusive environment for all volunteers, staff and the people we serve.
In 2013, co-founder Sarah Desjarlais was a foster parent attending a meeting at the child welfare office in Vancouver, Washington. During that meeting she saw a little boy sitting alone in a conference room – his meal and toys sitting untouched. He was alone, in every sense of the word. His social worker sat across the hall, feverishly working the phone, trying to find him a place he could call home. It occurred to her how hard it must be to do everything required of a social worker - and give a child who has just endured trauma the attention and comfort they need. A conversation with CPS supervisor Kim Karu followed, and the two women founded what was then known as Office Moms & Dads - using a mother's intuition and a social worker's know-how.
Throughout the pandemic as child welfare offices remained shuttered and intake numbers went down, our volunteers rallied to support local foster care communities. They provided meals, remote learning supplies, boxes of new clothing, Holiday gifts and more to kids in care and their families. Funders stepped up, and we got busy training more volunteers to answer the tidal wave of needs that would come.
In 2020 we joined the national conversation about systemic racism, because children of color have been, and continue to be, overrepresented in foster care. As we met with tribal leaders and members of Black and Hispanic community groups to hear their thoughts on how we could become a more inclusive organization, a common topic of conversation was the title we had given ourselves as Office "Moms and Dads". For many children, the title of ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ is reserved for two people alone. It doesn’t matter what they did - kids will always love their parents on some level. We had to honor that family culture. We had to change our name.
We believe that 'Fosterful' highlights the fact that we have become more than just Caring Companions. Through trauma-informed care practices, we provide nurturing environments and basic necessities to kids entering foster care. While those things will always be the heartbeat of what we do, we now have room to grow into a MOVEMENT for changing the System from the inside out.
What started with five volunteers in one child welfare office, has grown to nearly 500 volunteers in 26 offices (and counting) across Washington and Idaho.
Meet the board
Dr. Natalia Mathews
Meet the team
Regional Manager, Region 1 & 2, Idaho
What & why
Fosterful is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in Vancouver, Washington (USA) in 2013. Fosterful deploys qualified volunteers to child welfare offices throughout Washington and Idaho who sit with and entertain children who have just been removed from their homes - children who have undergone unspeakable trauma. Our volunteers serve in their local child welfare office on an on-call basis, and strive to make the day just a little bit better for both child and social worker.
The average child can wait in a child welfare office anywhere from three to five hours after being taken into protective custody. Meanwhile, social workers frantically search for a suitable foster home or relative to care for them. The wait after a removal can be one of the most frightening and uncertain times in a child’s life. Our volunteers help alleviate stress on social workers, care for the immediate needs of the child, and serve the foster care community in a tangible way. The time commitment for volunteers is flexible, but the impact is monumental.
Fosterful is funded by philanthropy. We depend on the generous support of individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations in the communities we serve. Special thanks to these Foundations who have made significant contributions toward the sustainability of Fosterful, and to these presenting sponsors of our major fundraising events.