Your name and how you started your foster closet?
My name is Esther Dupree. A couple of years ago I saw a friend who was starting the process to become a foster parent and was in need of a lot of baby gear. She was from Michigan originally, so she didn't have many friends here in Florida. I posted about it on my Facebook and asked friends to help her out. We were able to collect all the items she needed. After that, friends started offering me stuff all the time for foster parents, but I only had a few friends who were fostering. I felt like this was a calling on my life. To use my connections and abilities to network and help foster families.
At the start of 2018 I decided I wanted to help at least one foster family a month. A foster mom made me aware of a foster closet that was located about 30 minutes away from me. Our church had a portable building that wasn't being used and I decided to use that space to start a foster closet, as there weren't any in our area. The pastor of our church and I went and checked out the other foster closet to see how they had theirs set up and get feedback. Then I jumped into setting it up. We opened Redeeming Love Foster Closet on June 10th, 2018 in Lutz, FL.
Can you explain what a Foster Closet is?
A foster closet is a bridge between the community and the foster families that provides free items for the children in their care. Redeeming Love Foster Closet accepts and offers anything that a child from birth to teen might need. We carry clothes, shoes, baby and child gear, furniture, and toys.
What has been your experience with fostering and/or the adoption process?
While I am not a foster parent, I am an adoptive parent. We adopted both our sons at birth through domestic infant adoption. We have open adoptions with their birth families. The road of adoption was not without its bumps in the road, but we were blessed to be supported by so many friends and family. With our second adoption we had a lot of support from the LÍLLÉbaby Love members and LÍLLÉbaby Brand Ambassadors, who donated baby carriers for me to raffle off and help pay for our adoption fees.
How have you seen babywearing benefit yourself and the families you work with?
Our adoption agent suggested babywearing from the beginning of our adoption journey. It is an amazing way to help with the attachment process.
I’ve seen so many foster families benefit from babywearing. Baby carriers are always on our needs list. We encourage parents to babywear to help the children feel connected and close to the caregiver. I’ve seen many babies born with NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome), having tremors and needing constant comfort. I always suggest babywearing as a way to help them. One of the first foster moms that I gave a LÍLLÉbaby to told me this, "Thank you so much for the baby carrier. I wore her for 3 hours. She hasn't had any tremors since yesterday"
When did you join the LÍLLÉbaby family?
A friend suggested LÍLLÉbaby carriers to me, and I purchased one before our first son was born 6 years ago. I have been a LÍLLÉbaby fan ever since. I became a rep in 2015 and a brand ambassador in 2017.
Your favorite babywearing memory?
My personal favorite babywearing memory is so hard to choose. I would say the first time I ever tandem carried my two sons. My oldest was 4 years old and in a LÍLLÉbaby CarryOn, and my youngest was 1 month old. My oldest had been carried so much he was a little jealous of his brother, so it was an amazing feeling to wear them both at the same time.
I always love gifting baby carriers to families and teaching them how to use them. I love telling them the benefits of babywearing and seeing their little ones snuggled close.
Here are some things foster families have told me about their experiences babywearing:
“I am so thankful for the LÍLLÉbaby carrier the foster closet gave me. It has helped me to be able to carry my big baby boy around. He always wants to be held and it lets me get things done.”
“As a single foster mom I was struggling while I was grocery shopping with two under two years old. Now it is so much easier to get things done and run my errands.”
“For me, my favorite part of baby wearing is being able to carry Peach as she has gotten older. Due to a back injury I can't carry her regularly, so wearing her has given he the ability to have that closeness as she has gotten bigger.”
“We love our LÍLLÉbaby CarryOn. It helps us contain our little dude while we are out and about, and also hold him close. It’s so comfy and my husband likes it too.”
“I love the fact that I can wear her everywhere and she doesn't squirm like she does in the stroller. She loves being held close and tends to always fall asleep when she’s being worn. We go to theme parks a lot and being able to wear her having anywhere from 5-7 kids being able to have my hands free is great.”
“Babywearing is how I get through the grocery store with 6 kids! I have one who is a bit whiny and only likes to be held so the LÍLLÉbaby sling has been out life saver! So many of these little babies have experienced trauma and being close to me helps calm them.”
“I think before when he was smaller I would say that it was using it at Disney but now it is that he grabs it and brings it to me and asks to be carried.”
“I am so glad you taught me about babywearing and gave us this carrier. It helps my foster daughter so much.”
What’s your favorite quote?
"He is mine in a way he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine. Together we are motherhood." - Desha Wood
Redeeming Love Foster Closet Facebook Page