Allie Griffith Roth wins Medallion Award for her work supporting foster families
Love and loss led Allie Griffith Roth to support Portland-area foster families, even before she started fostering babies herself.
Esther Powell Siegel ’02 usually has about two hours between when the Department of Human Services calls her to host a foster child and when they drop off a baby or toddler at her house. “It’s like the worst babysitter pass-off,” she said. The department provides few instructions and rarely includes items like diapers when they drop off the child. “Unless you are a bonafide hoarder, it would be impossible to have everything you need.”
So within hours of meeting her new foster child, she heads to withloveoregon.org to request clothes, bottles, or maybe a pack-and-play. Within a couple of days, With Love delivers brand-new or like-new items to her Lake Oswego, Oregon doorstep — for free.
Siegel discovered the organization — which serves 130 children under the age of 6 each month in the Portland area — through her friend and neighbor, Allie Griffith Roth ’03. Roth started With Love five years ago, prompted by events in her own life.
Roth’s first child was stillborn in her second trimester of pregnancy almost a decade ago. “It was difficult to hold that tension of, ‘I have a kid who was loved profoundly but is dead, and here are all of these kids who need love to thrive,’” she said.
“I loved these kids,” [Roth] said. “I wanted them to have dignity and know they are loved.”
As a fourth and fifth grade teacher in the Beaverton School District, Roth’s classroom included children in foster care. “I loved these kids,” she said. “I wanted them to have dignity and know they are loved.”
So Roth would buy them new seasonal clothes and gear for activities, such as soccer shorts. She noticed that school-aged children had the resources of a school, but wondered about younger children.
As she asked those questions and worked through her grief, she felt that God was asking her, “Now what?”
The “now what” ended up being With Love, which is now a robust organization with 900 volunteers who collectively contribute 500 volunteer hours each month. The Tigard, Oregon, warehouse aims to be family-friendly with a play area for the children of volunteers. After a foster parent makes a request, volunteers fill the order with about three weeks’ worth of clean, seasonal clothing in the right size, and other quality items as requested. Roth estimates each delivery is worth between $300 and $1,300, covered by donated items and money.
“I wanted to rewrite the story for children in foster care, and say, ‘You are going to get the best of the best,’” Roth said. “‘You are not a cast-off, and you are not worn down.’”
The Roths, who have an 8-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, started fostering drug affected newborns for short stays two years ago. Roth’s now accustomed to the compliments from strangers in the grocery store that she looks “phenomenal for just having a baby.”
Roth hopes that With Love makes foster care more attainable for the average person, especially since the number of children in foster care has been rising every year since 2012, according to the U.S. Children’s Bureau. With Love is asked weekly to open a chapter somewhere else in the state or country. While the organization does not have the resources to expand, Roth hopes to hold replication seminars to empower others to create similar programs in their hometowns.
“We need to encourage people to stay in the game,” she said. “By supporting foster parents and bringing joy to their front door, we are lessening some of the burnout that happens in foster care.”
A shorter version of this story first appeared on page 48 of the Autumn 2018 issue of Response, with the headline “Supporting foster families with love.” Photos by Garland Cary.