How Does BTG Help?
The mission and purpose of Bridge the Gap is to provide educational and social experiences for children that the foster care system is not funded to provide, with the goal of giving every child in foster care a childhood with the enhanced experiences that many children in their own homes receive. Examples are:
- Provides funds for Little Wishes (e.g. dance lessons and a leotard, prom entrance fee and a tuxedo rental, violin rental, gymnastics class, piano lessons, etc.)
- Provides funds for tutoring to assist with increasing educational achievement
- Provides Christmas presents for children each year
- Provides summer camps, athletic enrollment fees, yearbook fees, etc.
- Birthday Wishes - Between January 2011 - December 2013 BTG gave out specially chosen and wrapped gifts for 676 children in state care.
- School supplies, winter coats and Christmas toys: Volunteers pick up and sort by age. Social workers deliver items to the children according to the needs of children and families on their caseload. Over 1000 children in 2013 were served by these donations.
Procedures for obtaining funding
- Social workers from DCFS Children's Administration submit written requests for help to BTG for specific children and specific wishes.
- BTG reviews request and, if approved, a check is written and sent directly to the source of the activity - i.e. the school for an ASB card, the tutoring agency, the therapeutic horse camp
Not all requests are accepted. Not all requests receive the full amount of what is requested. All requests must come through the state Social Worker.
More about what Bridge the Gap does:
- Imagine being a 4-year-old little girl who, in the middle of the night, is suddenly taken from the trailer house you and your parents are living in, where your dad is cooking methamphetamine and you have not eaten in 2 days. You are terrified because you are being taken for the first time in your life away from your mom and dad and you have to go to the home of a stranger to sleep for the rest of the night, without your favorite doll which is your only friend, because the social worker and the police officer who took you from your home could not spend time in the trailer looking for the doll because of the toxic chemicals in the trailer. You are scared, lonely, and wondering where you are going and what will happen to you. You are crying as you are left with the foster parents. Thanks to the generosity of Bridge the Gap, the foster mom has new pajamas for you to sleep in, new clothes for you to wear the next morning, and a new doll to play with and to love until you might be able to get your favorite doll back from the social worker sometime in the future. Bridge the Gap provides resources that help foster parents to comfort children and to bring them some happiness in what is a very sad time for children, as they are placed away from their parents, who are sometimes the only adults they have ever known. Children always love their parents, even when parents are abusive or neglectful, and children always miss their parents when they are placed into foster care, no matter how objectively "bad" their family home was in the view of Child Protective Services or law enforcement.
- Imagine being a 13-year-old boy in foster care whose friends all play baseball each spring and summer. However, your foster parents are of modest means and have told you that they can't find enough money in the foster care stipend to afford baseball shoes, uniform costs, a baseball glove, and the participation fee for baseball. The foster parent discusses the situation with your social worker who is able to request funds from Bridge the Gap to cover the costs so that you can participate in baseball on the same team with your best friends.
- Imagine being a 9-year-old girl who, due to what are called your "behavior problems" have been placed into 3 foster homes during this school year, meaning you have had to change schools, and friends, 3 times. Your counselor has recommended a summer camp experience to help build your self-esteem. You want to go but the $100 fee is not affordable by your foster mom, a single working parent who has 2 other foster children plus 2 children of her own. Your social worker requests funds from Bridge the Gap to cover the cost of the camp so that you can attend. In the fall after you attend the camp, your counselor remarks how much better you are doing in school and how you seem to have more friends and less "behavior problems." The counselor has been told by the camp staff how much you "grew emotionally" as a result of attending this special camp during the summer.
- Imagine being a 16-year-old boy who is 2 grade levels behind and needs tutoring in math and English to catch up and be on track for graduation. Your foster dad requests from Bridge the Gap to help fund tutoring, some of which he manages to pay for out of the foster care stipend, some of which he covers with his own money, but he is $200 short of covering the full costs of the necessary tutoring. The $200 provided by Bridge the Gap makes it possible for you to participate in tutoring for long enough that you can get caught up on the subjects you struggle with. You can see now that there is a good chance you can graduate with your class in 2 more years. Graduation is a goal you set for yourself with the help of your social worker when you came into foster care 3 years ago. You are proud of your progress toward this goal because no one in your family has ever graduated from high school before. You want to be the first family member to reach this important milestone.
These are just a few of the stories that social workers and others involved with the child welfare system know only too well. Each child in foster care deserves to have a childhood and a youth that is as "normal" as possible, despite being in foster care placement. Each child deserves the best that we as a community can provide for them. These stories are typical of Bridge the Gap's immeasurable impact on the lives of children in foster care.