WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - About a dozen community members gathered at The Foxes Boxes restaurant in Wilmington on Wednesday night to talk about their experiences with foster care.
Foster parents, a former foster child, Department of Social Services workers and a guardian ad-litem volunteer gave an inside look into the foster care world.
Foster parents Emily Klinefelter and Stacy Pullen spoke about their experiences and about the organization they founded to help other foster families, The Foster Pantry.
"The Foster Pantry is an organization that we've basically created a community closet that is set up to be a support to local foster parents, foster children and also kinship, which is when the child comes into custody and goes to a family member," said Klinefelter.
"We take donations from the community and whenever a child comes into custody, we try to put together a week's worth of items to give to the foster parent so they can focus on the kid instead of focusing on running to Walmart or getting the toothbrush or the clothes," Pullen added.
They explained how first meeting a foster child or children can be overwhelming for all involved. They said it is important to focus attention entirely on the child to make sure they feel safe and at ease.
The Foster Pantry aims to give parents and children one less thing to worry about by making sure they have necessary supplies.
"Some come with a lot, and some come with absolutely nothing except for the clothes on their back," Pullen said. "This is our way to kind of relieve that pressure of having to run out so they can put the attention on the kids."
The Foster Pantry is supported by community donations and accepts items like gently worn or new clothes and shoes, new cribs and car seats, toiletries, diapers and other baby supplies.
Klinefelter and Pullen said they felt a calling to become foster parents and are working to change the perception created about foster families.
"There's always going to be bad apples in everything, especially when something is so emotional," said Klinefelter. "As humans, we're geared to find that negative and there's always going to be that negative, but that's not what the majority is.
"There's also this stigma that not only are there bad situations but that most foster parents are doing it for the money, which any foster parent will tell you, you're not going to make any money. You're not going to make anything from being one. This is strictly a heart calling."
For more information, or to donate to The Foster Pantry, click here.