Debra Smith has some deep ties to the foster program. She’s been a foster parent in California and Tennessee, and now she’s licensed to be a foster parent in Alabama. Since it’s a cause that’s close to her heart, she’s recently decided to start a nonprofit to help foster kids in the area.
Debra started B.A.L.M. Foster Care Program, a 501c3 nonprofit in the Huntsville area, in August 2018 to fill in the gaps for foster kids and foster families.
The meaning behind B.A.L.M.’s name is twofold. The letters are an acronym for the first letters in her grandparents name, but they also stand for Best Access to Living Meaningfully.
“I just believe that God has given this to me as a ministry,” Debra said.
Before B.A.L.M., Debra tried several different ways to help the community, but she kept coming back to foster care.
At first, she wanted to provide foster kids with rolling duffle bags for foster kids so they wouldn’t have to carry their possessions around in a trash bag. When the duffel bags proved to be too expensive for a new nonprofit, they turned to silk-screened laundry bags with motivational quotes emblazoned on them. Kids can get yellow bags that say, “Always believe your future will be bright,” or blue bags that say “Each new day is a new opportunity to believe that your life will be better, believe that you will be successful, believe that you are destined for a bright future.”
“We wanted to always be able to have the children focus on something positive,” Debra said.
In the past year, they’ve handed out a large number of laundry bags, pajamas, stuffed animals and blankets to foster kids in the Huntsville area.
From there, the group grew to doing several other things for foster kids. B.A.L.M. partners with a group in Dallas to give area foster kids a celebration they won’t forget. And they’ve handed out 85 birthday boxes.
In addition to the goodies inside those birthday boxes, the box itself is a keepsake. Kids can color the box, then have a party with the contents — a greeting card, a banner, balloons, party hats, streamers, candles, bracelets, necklace, tape, confetti and crayons.
Debra also recently finished designing a coloring book diary, something she hopes to hand out to foster kids.
“It’s actually intended to be a therapeutic tool,” Debra said. “Most children don’t really communicate some of the things that they’ve gone through, that they’ve experienced, and this is just an opportunity for them to express themselves in a creative way.”
In early June, B.A.L.M. hosted their first foster care expo to bring different entities together to help foster families and foster kids. They aren’t in competition with any of the other groups who help foster kids, but they want to work alongside them to make everyone’s life easier.
As for the future of B.A.L.M., Debra hopes to sponsor and host birthday parties, help potential foster families get their homes ready for placements, and offer foster parents nights out, and even create care packages for teens who have aged out of the foster care system.
You can follow them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on everything B.A.L.M. is doing.