Support Let it Be Us Sunday at 2nd Annual Bags for Charity

Overlooked  

Unnoticed 

Ignored  

 

All too often, these words describe children silently passing through the Illinois foster care system.

They may grow up bouncing from foster house to foster house, never really finding a true home. If these children are never adopted, they find themselves at a higher chance of teen pregnancy, imprisonment, and will likely falter in the education system. Nothing makes these children different from others; they are simply the product of their unfortunate circumstances. All they need is one loving family to break the cycle and adopt them. And there are finally voices fighting for them.

Let It Be Us (LIBU), a local non-profit in the Barrington community was founded by Susan McConnell with the goal of assisting with the adoption and education of these overlooked children in Illinois foster care. From a small beginning, the organization has grown to become the beneficiary of several charitable events.

Living60010 took the time to talk to McConnell, as well as members Jennifer McAndrews and Sandy Hewson, to delve into this organization’s wonderful work and upcoming events.

Living60010: How did you get in involved in Let It Be Us and how has your role in the organization affected you personally?

Susan McConnell, LIBU Founder: I started Let It Be Us because I photographed children available for adoption for the State of Illinois for the past 12 years and I saw that these children were not being adopted. We built Let It Be Us to be the machine behind them to help make that happen. When children are adopted into families, they have a support system that lasts their lifetime and the benefits reach across generations to come.

Jennifer McAndrews, Board Chair & Fundraising Committee Chair: I am the mother of 6 children and 2 children through foster care. I joined Let It Be Us because I believed in their mission and because I knew the struggles of these children first-hand. Let It Be Us has given me a platform to use my experience in foster care to benefit the children in Illinois foster care and especially the children awaiting adoption.

Sandy Hewson, Director of Operations: I joined Let It Be Us because I wanted to find a place I knew I could be hands-on while sharing the experience with my children. I work with the day-to-day operations, but my greatest joy is watching my kids experience Let It Be Us. Their ears perk up with they hear “foster care” or “kids in care”; they are beginning to understand the need of these children, they empathize, and ask for ways they can help.

Living60010: Can you give us a brief history of LIBU for those unfamiliar with the organization?

McConnell: Our founding would not have been possible without the collaborative contributions of some of the "Founding Fathers and Mothers of Barrington", such as Bob Lee, Dee Beaubien, Amy Bash and Peter Yankala. As for creating our board, each board member was selected based on their personal commitment to foster care and adoption. Each of us has a unique relationship to foster care and adoption. So to say that we all walk the walk and talk the talk is not a stretch.

Living60010: LIBU offers a lot in terms of assisting foster care children in their search for adoption and/or education. Could you explain a few of those services?

McConnell: The Heart Gallery of Illinois (a photography gallery of children in foster care) lives on our website and features children who are legally available for adoption and waiting for their Forever Families. If a child is placed in a Heart Gallery, he or she has a significant chance of being adopted.

Our Educational Mentorship Program recruits, trains and assigns mentors to children living in group homes who are struggling to graduate from high school and enter college or certificate programs. These children will, most likely, not become adopted, and we feel that giving these children an education is the most important gift that we can give them to move into the future.

Additionally, through Project Dignity, children entering foster care receive a large duffle bag containing new school supplies as well as personal care items. These supplies solve an immediate need for the children and the duffle bags allow them to move within the foster care system in a bag that allows them the dignity that they deserve. These duffle bags are delivered to agencies, residential home or group homes and they are provided at no cost.

Living60010: How have things changed for LIBU in the past year?

McConnell: Over the past year, we have refined our programs and prepared them to scale to meet the needs across the state. This is a wonderful time of opportunity in the State of Illinois, as we are in the position to work hand in hand in a public-private partnership with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services. The State of Illinois needs Let It Be Us to help these children and we are the first and only nonprofit of our kind to do so.

Living60010: Most people don't know that adoption from foster care is free. What other facts about foster care do people not know?

McConnell: Adoption from foster care is not only free, it does not discriminate against age, income, gender, marital status or sexual orientation. Any good citizen can adopt from foster care. These children need parents who are able and willing to champion them.

Also, according to studies from the University of Chicago, if a child in foster care in the Midwest is not adopted, 45% of the girls become pregnant, over 50% of the boys go to prison, 50% will never graduate from high school, and 97% will never attend college. The burden to our taxpayers is catastrophic and the burden to these children is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Living60010: With the ultimate goal of LIBU being to get foster children adopted, what can people willing to help but unable to adopt for one reason or another do to further LIBU's cause?

McConnell: Not everyone is in the position to adopt from foster care. Our name alone, Let It Be Us, invites everyone to belong to our mission. People are welcome to attend our events, volunteer at our events, and volunteer in our work. Of course, we always need sponsors to enjoy our audience of parents and potential parents. We are inclusive, not exclusive, and we welcome anyone who wants to work with us and help us.

Hewson: The beauty of Let It Be Us is that it offers everyone a chance to contribute in some way. Often, when we hear about social issues such as foster care and those in need, we find ourselves wishing there was a way to help…but really not knowing how to help. Those who are able to donate financially, do so. Seasoned professionals offer their services pro bono to raise awareness. Local charities like Barrington Children’s Charities entrust us with their grants. High school students offer their time and energy to put together duffle bags of care items. They stand in front of Jewel and during Cruise Nights to raise awareness and funds. Younger students gather school supplies, pack bags of flashlights, band-aids, and beach toys….all the while, learning what it means to be a child living in foster care.

Living60010: You have a couple of charity events coming up that directly support LIBU. Where/when are they & what should our readers know about them?

McAndrews: Our nearest event is actually coming up this weekend. We will be the beneficiary of the 2nd Annual Bags for Charity, which is from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. this Sunday the 16th. It’s in the lot next to Heads Up Boutique in town, at 200 East Main Street. Families and teams are welcome!

Let It Be Us - Inspiring Foster Care Adoptions from Let It Be Us on Vimeo.

We also have another event coming up July 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in The Arboretum of South Barrington. This event, called UnCorked, will have sample tastings of wine, sake, mixed cocktails, and artisan crafted appetizers from several local restaurants, and will also benefit LIBU.

More information, as well as full listings of all of our upcoming events, can be found at www.LetItBeUs.org/events.

Hewson: We have yet another tangible opportunity right now to provide bags of necessities to 50 kids in care who are entering college next month. Donors can purchase items at http://a.co/5HpepKA. Local students will pack these bags next week, and then present them to students and applaud their accomplishments at a luncheon hosted by Department of Child & Family Services next Friday. It takes the effort of many to make celebrations like this possible…but the smiles on the faces of those new college students make it worth every minute!

Additional information about Let It Be Us can be found on their website at https://letitbeus.org/

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