Denise Russell, WACAP’s A Family for Me Coordinator, shares the story of one of the most unusual A Family for Me activity videos she’s planned, and why in so many ways, it was exactly perfect for the preteen she got to meet that day …
If love and caring can be measured in quantities of slime, I know a foster family who has a ton of it. Slime (the activity version) is exactly what you might imagine: globs of goo that stretch, and plop, and squish. You can make it or you can buy it. But either way, for tactile and creative kids, it’s just absurdly cool. During one of our A Family for Me video shoots, I had the pleasure of witnessing both the fascination-with-slime phenomenon and the impressive enthusiasm of one foster dad.
Through A Family for Me, we introduce the community to foster kids by highlighting each child’s interests, the things they care about, and what they envision for a family. I generally start by reading each child’s profile in search of ideas for an activity that will help capture their personality. But I know it’s just as important to connect with those who directly care for the child and get their opinion. A few months back, when I found myself pondering a video plan for a preteen girl, it was her foster dad who had the answer. “She likes slime. How about a slime party?”
Turns out, this was a pretty ingenious suggestion by Foster Dad because it allowed us to include the five other kids in his care. The only catch for us was that we needed to protect the privacy of the other children … while recording video for the child we were featuring. Our videographer would need to avoid faces, and focus the action on many, many young hands.
My intention was to purchase a reasonable amount of slime. But before I could, I received an email from Foster Dad basically stating that he’d already started a slime-making marathon. He asked that I just pick up some “add-ins.” For those not familiar with the slime world, “add-ins” are things like glitter, beads, and shells, to be incorporated into one’s personal pile of goo, thus making the slime all the more weird and alluring.
On the day of our video shoot, I swung into the crafts store, loaded up with sparkly and strange trinkets, then met up with our videographer at the park we designated as our meeting spot. Soon, a large van pulled into the parking lot and out of every door climbed six foster kids and two foster parents. Then they started loading each other up with bags of party necessities: a table cloth, paper plates, mini containers, etc. Finally, they lifted out a giant cooler on wheels and made their way over to our picnic table. There was a collective pause as everyone gathered around the cooler. Foster Dad opened it up to reveal what looked like 50 large Ziplocks, containing every variation of slime imaginable. Multiple colors, textures, and variance of translucency glittered in the sun. It was a stunning smorgasbord of slime!
I had to step back. Not only to take in the sheer volume of slime, but also to remind myself that entertaining these kids is not this family’s job. This family’s responsibility is to care for them and keep them safe. It’s to keep them fed and help them navigate their current circumstances and uncertain futures. Foster parents need to get them to their various appointments and events. And in this family’s case, they need to do all this while navigating six different complex backgrounds and six different sets of needs. But still, with all that going on, they were still able to pull off making this day extra special!
The party, of course, was a slimy success. The kids traded colors, exchanged “add-ins,” and marveled at each bag of slime’s unique characteristics. They chattered away and seemed to really appreciate the goofiness of the event. As we neared maximum sliminess, we asked our featured child and Foster Mom to join us away from the other kids for a bit, so we could interview this creative preteen. And for a girl who seemed a bit soft spoken during the activity, she answered my questions with thoughtful and engaging answers. Soon, our videographer and I said our goodbyes and left the family there, to enjoy the rest of the day.
As always, I was anxious to review the footage and hand it off to KING-5 News, so they could put together another A Family for Me segment. But life is complicated and life for foster kids tends to be even more so. For now, circumstances require that we hold on the broadcasting the video. But the experience was a reminder that we try to accomplish a couple things at once with our program. We aim to create those all-important videos so families can meet waiting children. And we also try to provide a fun experience and really memorable day for each child we feature. In this case, thanks to Foster Dad, it was a great day times six kids!
Plus, I can attest that there was, indeed, some magnificent slime squished that day.
About WACAP “A Family for Me Program Coordinator” Denise Russell: Since joining WACAP in 2013, Denise has coordinated adoption outreach videos for over 100 children in foster care. An adoptee herself, Denise feels a special connection with every child she meets. Interacting daily with the dedicated foster child community and committed organizations that support WACAP’s efforts, she says it feels often like mysterious forces are also lending a hand to help. Outside of work, Denise enjoys “laughing a lot with her handy and hard-working husband, hanging out with their entertaining and opinionated sons, and appreciating the goofiness of the family’s two Labradors.” Oh, and she loves a good movie!
Source of Images: WACAP – A Family for Me Videos