Spreading Threads is about more than gifting clothing to foster kids: It is about expanding resources to improve quality of life and promote dignity for children and families in the foster care system.
“I believe that if we don’t take care of these kids now as a society and as a community, we will pay for it somewhere, at some point, down the line. We have a responsibility to help these kids: They are residents of this city. They are our neighbors,” said Michele Wright, who co-founded Spreading Threads with her wife, Michele Bennett.
The couple realized the need for the nonprofit when they became involved with the foster care system about 17 years ago; they have since adopted four children out of foster care.
Wright said that soon after they started their foster care journey, the economy took a downturn and services to foster parents were cut, disrupting the already limited resources.
“Foster parents used to get $300 for clothing for a foster child, and then in 2008 or 2009 it was cut to $150 and it remains the same today: $150 per year to clothe your foster kid. Obviously that is grossly inadequate, and that is why we started the clothing bank,” said Wright.
Additionally, Wright emphasized that for kinship families — foster families that are friends or extended family members of the children in care — the stipends from the state are reduced considerably.
“At least 60% of foster placements in Southern Arizona are kinship placements, and COVID has taken a toll on all families, including kinship families. Kinship families are usually not licensed foster parents — they are often a grandma or an aunt or family friend. If they are not licensed, they receive about 10% of the amount licensed foster parents receive. A kinship family might receive $60 to $70 per month to care for a child, and the person who pays the biggest price is always the kid if we fall short,” said Wright.
The growth of the grassroots nonprofit is testament to the need.
In 2018, the organization leased a 1,300-square-foot space in which to store gently used and new clothing, shoes, toys, books, school supplies and other basic necessities. The supplies are free to foster and adoptive parents during Spreading Threads Clothing Bank Events on the second Saturday of each month at the facility at 1870 W. Prince Road, Suite 54. The next event is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9. Children, except for group home teens, are restricted from attending the event, and pandemic protocol, including face masks and social distancing, will be followed.
Wright said Spreading Threads also frequently performs “emergency pulls” and arranges delivery or pick-up of clothing and supplies for foster and kinship parents, who may receive only an hour notice before they receive a child. Emergency pulls have also been particularly helpful during the pandemic, according to Wright.