Something to Un-RAPP

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Lay everything you have with you that means nothing or has little value out on your desk. Then place a value to it. Coffee mug ($10), pens and pencils ($5.50), folders and binders ($15), packed lunch ($4). Who bought you those items? Most likely your parents did.

Rarely do we ever appreciate our parents nagging us, the stocking stuffers around the holidays, the mugs we drink our coffee from, the breaking in of our brand new shoes. Even more rarely do we remember that people would go to great lengths in order to have half of those things. The Cardinal Ritter Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP) is a city-county program that works to help provide the simplest of things for children who are placed under the care of relatives. Many of these RAPP families are poverty stricken, leaving them unable to provide food and clothing, the simplest of things.

RAPP kids are typically placed under their relatives’ care because they were taken away from their parents due to drugs and/or crimes or they parents became deceased. While many reading this article may think that being placed under the care of their relatives would be much “easier” for these children, life actually becomes harder. Caretakers are put under more pressure to provide for their family. Children are put under the stress of losing their parents and doing everything in order to keep their situation a secret. There is no such thing as birthday presents or even the little luxuries we have come to underappreciate. RAPP children may never see the things taken for granted far too often: cell phones, iPods, clothing that fits, a packed lunch. Nor will they have grand Thanksgiving dinners or a few extra bucks to go buy popcorn and soda at their high school football game.

RAPP aims to help ease financial and emotional struggles for these families by providing situation-based “allowances” that range from $678-$1,200.  The money typically goes towards providing food and clothing for their kids. Other times, relatives try to provide internet or a computer since so much of their child’s education is based upon those things. However, it is very difficult to stretch that small amount of money over a whole family’s food supply for a month on top of clothing for rapidly growing children. One of RAPP families’ biggest struggle occurs over the summer months, a time where kids are not in school to receive discount or free lunches. Another large struggle is providing clothes and shoes that fit for children. In order to ease the effort of providing fitting shoes, Brown Shoe Company recently donated 350 pairs of children’s shoes.

“The shoes donated were brand new and we know they will be put to good use,” General Manager of Life Stride Division, Debbie Krivelow said. “RAPP is providing a great service to the community and we are glad we could help.”

Krivelow oversees a product team as well as a sales force. Brown Shoe Company wants to help charities like RAPP in any way they can. By donating 350 pairs of shoes, RAPP has more than enough pairs for each child in their program. While RAPP lacks storage, they were able to find temporary storage for this generous donation.

“We are very grateful for the shoes,” Outreach Social Worker Kathleen A. McAleenan said.

As an Outreach Social Worker, allowing her to work directly with RAPP families. What she wants most for the Relatives as Parents Program is awareness. People are sometimes unaware of smaller programs like RAPP. Little recognition makes it difficult to receive more donations for families.

On top of the difficulty that comes from providing food, clothing and shelter, guardians, who are often between the ages of sixty and eighty, must provide healthcare for these children. Many times that means going back to work in order to receive health care benefits for their family, even if caretakers have been out of work for years.

RAPP is an alternative to the overcrowded foster cares system aiming to help relieve the stress and stigma that comes from being relatives as parents. In order to relieve the stigma attached to having parents taken away, families are given forms of counseling. Guardians meet in groups around their areas to talk about their experiences, while counselors teach kids that their situation is not so unique.

While RAPP is a great program, it works solely off of donations and funding from people like you and me. Since each family gets money based upon their situation (how much income they have, how many kids there are to take care of), RAPP and its members would greatly benefit from cash or gift card donations. On November 15,  Old Newsboy will sell papers on street corners. A portion of the profits made will be donated to RAPP. In addition to buying newspapers over Old Newsboy, when donating, RAPP would greatly benefit from gift cards to Walmart, Shop and Save, Famous Footwear, and other places similar to those. Donating gift cards and cash give RAPP members more dignity, pride and freedom when buying new, unused items.

RAPP does not currently own warehouses for storage, so people interested in helping should offer voluntary services or donations. Remember the next time you get into a teenage hormone fueled fight with your parents that you are lucky to have them. Remember the next time you eat your packed lunch that you may think is bland and boring, that you should be thankful.

For more information about RAPP contact Kathleen McAleenan at [email protected] or 314-961-8000.

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