Rabbi Larry Kaplan has been jolted out of sleep many times to provide emergency foster care for children suddenly removed from their homes on suspected abuse and neglect, and shopping for pajamas that fit them isn’t an immediate option.
He visited a human services open house at the Luzerne County Courthouse Monday to show support for a foster children pajama drive and encourage others to consider becoming foster parents.
“I’m hoping more are willing to share that joy,” said Kaplan.
Children and Youth caseworker supervisor Judi Newman said a new pair of pajamas can help sooth children who are suddenly lodged with strangers.
“The children are so traumatized by removal. Just to have something that’s theirs handed to them can mean a lot,” Newman said.
County acting Manager C. David Pedri added a pajama drive to April’s national county government events after learning about the need during a recent county Children and Youth Advisory Board meeting.
“If we can give just a little bit of comfort to these children, it’s completely worth it. That little act of kindness can go a long way,” Pedri said.
All sizes of new pajamas will be accepted this month. Collection boxes have been set up at the county manager’s office in the courthouse basement and at the county human services building, 111 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre. Call 570-826-8718 for more information on donating or becoming a foster parent.
Children and Youth caseworker manager Ceil Bartolai stressed larger pajamas for older foster children, including teenagers who wear adult sizes, also are needed. The agency also accepts donations of diapers, wipes, formula, new car seats and pillows and other items, she said. The supplies will be issued to homes that accept emergency foster placements.
Newman recently said the county has a “desperate need” for families willing to accept foster children of all ages, including siblings.
A total 385 children are currently in foster care in the county, Bartolai said. The number of private residences in the region accepting foster children from the county: 85.
Kaplan said he and his wife, Gerri, try to keep an assortment of child clothing and supplies in their Kingston home.
“We have a consignment shop in our basement,” he said, laughing.
The Kaplans have cared for around 65 foster children the past 13 years and adopted five. Having pajamas and other necessities on hand allows foster families to concentrate more on the emotional needs of the displaced children, he said.
His first placement needed gentle scrubbing to remove duct tape residue from the child’s arms stemming from some type of restraint, he said.
“We’ve had kids with cigarette burns and one with a spinal fracture,” said Kaplan, of the Temple Israel.
Caseworkers also need more support from the community, he said, describing some who have been spit on or forced to throw away clothes after exposure to lice.
“What they do is phenomenal,” he said.