Program and Impact
Since establishing Tatum’s Totes we have heard stories of children who arrived at DCF offices with plastic bags that included everything they owned – which was not much, and often did not include what these children and the family they were joining needed to support that transition.
Every day, Vermont children enter foster care, often in an emergent situation. These children are told to grab their things and go. Many times, there isn’t much to grab and a few random personal possessions are stuffed into a garbage bag and sent with them.
Tatum’s Totes was created to help make this transition easier.
We help to provide not only the basics like a sturdy backpack, books, socks, hygiene items (like soap, a toothbrush, paste and floss), and blanket, but something that a child can cherish, like a stuffed animal, toy, or game. We hope that, along with the foster family they are going to live with, we are giving these children back a part of their childhood,” said Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director of the Green Mountain United Way.
In 2021 Green Mountain United Way provided 434 backpacks to children transition into foster care. In 2016, that number was just 80. Sadly, we expect the number to continue to increase.
Tatum’s Totes is available to all children transitioning into foster care in the Barre, Newport, and St. Johnsbury Department for Children and Families Districts, coordinated by Green Mountain United Way.
This program is available to all children entering foster care in the state of Vermont. To access this program, families work directly through contacts within the Department for Children and Families.
Supporting our Work
We have seen overwhelming support for this program since establishing it in our service areas. To support this program please click the Donate button above.
For in-kind donations of new and unused items to support Tatum’s Totes, please take a moment to review our Item of the Month Drive list to see what types of items we need this month. If you would like to organize a larger drive or a regular donation drive, please contact Tawnya Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate based on our current needs.
Please note, only NEW UNUSED items can be accepted.
Tatum’s Totes Item of the Month Drive
|January||Baby Items||Infant items small enough to fit inside a diaper bag. Examples: Hygiene items, bottles, rattles, bibs, diapers, wipes, board books.|
|February||Diaper Bags||Gender neutral colors preferred. Both boys and girls bags needed. They do not need to be filled.|
|March||Socks||Specifically in need of boys and girls socks for ages 2 – 6. Little kid socks.|
|April||Books||Needed for all ages. Must be NEW. Examples: board books, picture books, chapter books, ‘I can read’ books, teen appropriate novels|
|May||Water Bottles||Needed for all ages. Examples: sippy cups with lids and handles, small plastic water bottles for smaller hands, Older kid and teen bottles for water or hot chocolate.|
|June||Hygiene||Specifically in need of lotions, body wash, shampoo/conditioner, hair brush, combs, hair bows/clips/ties, deoderant (both boy and girl), loofah, nail set and polish. Do not need dental items and please no travel size.|
|July||Art Supplies||Looking for coloring books and crayons, colored pencils, markers, stickers and sticker books, word search/sudoku, card games, decks of cards.|
|August||School Supplies||Any age back to school items. Examples: notebooks, paper, folders, pencils, pens, ruler, binders, pencil case.|
|September||Backpacks||Any age, any size. From toddler backpacks that they can carry to teenage bookbags with laptop sleeves. Both boys and girls|
|October||Blankets||Throw blankets for any age both boys and girls.|
|November||Hats, Scarves, Gloves & Mittens||Any ages for boys and girls. Most needed are for teen boys|
|December||Gifts for “Sponsor a Child”||Contact our office at GMUW to see how you can sponor a foster child in our area by providing holiday gifts.|
Tatum’s Totes is an independent nonprofit organization started in Rutland by foster parents Liz and Alex Grimes in honor of their son Tatum who died at the age of 5 months old of SIDS. After becoming foster parents, they found that many children entered the foster care system with little more than a plastic bag and the clothes they were wearing. Liz and Alex started Tatum’s Totes to ensure that each child entering emergency foster care had a backpack of their own filled with comforting items that could stay with them throughout their transition into foster care. Green Mountain United Way employee Pam Bailey saw the program on Facebook and immediately recognized the value for the Central and Northern Vermont regions that Green Mountain United Way serves and offered to establish a Tatum’s Totes program for both Newport and Barre DCF Districts in February 2016. Green Mountain United Way has helped to establish programs that serve all of the towns in our five-county service area.