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Dec. 5, 2022

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Vancouver-based foster care nonprofit Office Moms and Dads rebrands as Fosterful

By , Columbian staff writer
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Sarah Desjarlais, executive director of Fosterful, formerly Office Moms and Dads, sits Monday at the organization's office in downtown Vancouver. Desjarlais decided to rebrand the organization after having conversations with local tribal leaders and members of Black and Hispanic groups to hear their thoughts on how the organization could become more inclusive.
Sarah Desjarlais, executive director of Fosterful, formerly Office Moms and Dads, sits Monday at the organization's office in downtown Vancouver. Desjarlais decided to rebrand the organization after having conversations with local tribal leaders and members of Black and Hispanic groups to hear their thoughts on how the organization could become more inclusive. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Vancouver-based nonprofit Office Moms and Dads is getting a haircut.

That’s how Executive Director Sarah Desjarlais described the organization’s recent rebrand that was announced Saturday, which changed the name, look and feel of the nonprofit so that it “better aligns with our vision for inclusivity and equity in the world of child welfare,” Desjarlais said.

The organization’s new name? Fosterful.

Fosterful is an organization that partners with child welfare offices to supply qualified volunteers who spend time with children entering foster care. Volunteers keep children occupied and safe by providing emotional support and basic necessities while social workers work behind the scenes to arrange for their long-term care. It currently has 26 offices in Washington and Idaho and some 400 volunteers. It served 417 children entering the foster care system in 2021.

“The name Fosterful goes along with the idea that we are hopeful, we are thoughtful and we are mindful,” Desjarlais said. “We’re not here to assume a role. We’re just here to hold and carry whatever it is that child is bringing into the office that day.”

The organization has an updated website at Fosterful.org, a fresh logo and new aprons for volunteers. Operations at the organization, however, will remain the same.

Why Fosterful?

In 2020, Fosterful leadership began having conversations about how to better serve children of color, who are overrepresented in foster care, and how to better live up to the organization’s vision for inclusivity in foster care.

Desjarlais and others began meeting with local tribal leaders — including representatives from the Cowlitz Tribe, the Tulalip Tribes and the Swinomish Tribe — and members of Black and Hispanic community groups like the NAACP and League of United Latin American Citizens to hear their thoughts on how Fosterful could be more inclusive.

The nonprofit’s former name, Office Moms and Dads, came up again and again as something that could be changed.

“In many cultures, to a child, there’s only one mom and one dad in a kid’s life,” Desjarlais said. “One of the themes that came through with my conversations was our name — it was really challenging for some communities to fully embrace.” Additionally, nonbinary volunteers contacted Desjarlais and challenged the gender designation in the name.

The deciding moment came for Desjarlais in November when she visited the child welfare office in downtown Vancouver to sit with three little boys. At the time, the organization’s board was actively considering a name change.

“We needed a volunteer to watch them, and I was available, so I took a shift,” she said. Before the rebrand, volunteers would wear aprons that read “Office Mom” or “Office Dad” across the front. Desjarlais was wearing one. The oldest of the three boys asked her, “What does Office Mom mean?”

“I couldn’t answer, I just got totally tongue-tied,” Desjarlais said. “That was the moment for me when I decided, yeah, this needs to change.”

Another factor that led to the name change was that the organization took on less of an office role during the pandemic.

“In 2021, most of our offices remained closed to the public,” Desjarlais said. “We couldn’t get into the office and do what our heart is, which is just sitting with kids. Instead, we were able to provide remote learning school supplies, and we were able to provide meals to foster families. We found ways to serve that were more than just being caring companions. And that played into one of the reasons why our name needed to change. We’re not just office people anymore. We’re everywhere.”

The organization teamed up with Vancouver-based Riff_Creative to design the rebrand, and organization leaders set about finding a new name, eventually landing on Fosterful.

The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation funded the rebrand, Desjarlais said. The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington and the Firstenburg Foundation also provided funding related to the rebrand.

“Clark County has been so supportive over the past eight years, and we’ve worked so hard to become kind of a household name in Clark County,” Desjarlais said. “I want people to know that Office Moms and Dads didn’t go away, we got a haircut. We’re the same organization that they bought into and believe in, but now we’re just more inclusive and truer to our values.”

Moving forward

Fosterful’s new website launched this week. It’s in its early stages, and more information like tax documents and a location finder will be added in the coming weeks.

The organization’s new name has been registered with the state, but Desjarlais is still working to update its Chamber of Commerce profile and the signs outside of its brick-and-mortar operation in downtown Vancouver, which opened in May 2021. Desjarlais is also focused on getting the word out about the rebrand.

But the rebrand isn’t the only thing Fosterful is up to. The nonprofit recently created a new position that will help standardize operations across its 26 locations, and Desjarlais hopes to bring on 100 new volunteers by the end of the year. Fosterful is also gearing up for Foster Care Awareness Month in May and for its largest fundraiser of the year, which is slated for June at the AC Hotel Marriott on the Vancouver waterfront.

And, as always, Desjarlais is seeking ways to make Fosterful a more inclusive, equitable and effective organization.

“There’s lots of growth happening for us,” Desjarlais said. “That’s what this year will be all about.”

To learn more about Fosterful, visit Fosterful.org.

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Columbian staff writer