Cindy Bray knows the challenges of being a foster parent.
Over the past several years, Bray and her husband have served as foster parents to more than 40 children, including five they adopted.
“We realized this wasn’t working, going to Walmart at 1 or 2 in the morning to buy supplies,” she said.
So, with that knowledge, she started the Rainbow Room, which offers foster parents everything from clothing for the children to diapers to bassinets and high chairs.
“These children often come with nothing other than what they are wearing. When they are removed from a situation, the police and the welfare workers don’t have time to gather things,” she said.
Plus, foster parents aren’t usually set up for the children who are brought to them.
That means finding the necessary items, like baby beds and clothing, quickly.
Those things often have to be purchased, and while foster parents do receive a stipend, it may not come for days or even weeks.
The items are needed immediately in most cases.
At the Rainbow Room, the public donates items that are then provided to the foster parents.
“That way when a foster parent receives a child, they can come and get what they need,” Bray said. “They don’t have to pay for anything.”
Bray said she was a foster parent for several years, but after adopting five children, two of whom are homeschooled, she had her hands full.
But she still wanted to be involved, which is why she started the Rainbow Room last year.
It fills her garage.
“It provides for foster families and foster kids,” she said.
There are supplies for children from infants to 17 year olds.
Bray said she almost closed the Rainbow Room late last year, but her heart wasn’t in it.
“I know what it’s like to get these kids and what it is like to have nothing,” she said. “I will continue to do this until, hopefully, one day there is no need for it.”
Casey White, a communications manager for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, said having community support programs, like the Rainbow Room, is important.
“They are very helpful to our foster parents. We often make placements quickly and it may not be safe to take their stuff with them,” she said. “It depends on the circumstances.”
White said that while the state does provide a stipend, there often are immediate needs.
“We often make referrals to community partners,” she said.
Those partners include places like the Rainbow Room, or churches that take it upon themselves to help foster parents.
“They are very beneficial,” she said.
Cynthia Cleavinger, a Mustang mom of eight, including four who are adopted foster children and another who is a foster child, said having the Rainbow Room to turn to is helpful.
Cleavinger said she received her foster daughter in September. The six-year-old came with only three outfits and a pair of shoes.
Bray came through for her.
“We had no bed, no pajamas or the basic necessities you need for any kid,” Cleavinger said.
Bray was able to find everything she needed to get started.
“She helps people across Oklahoma,” Cleavinger said. “Having that resource, and knowing you can call her, is terrific. If she doesn’t have what you need, she will put feelers out and get you want you need.
“When you get a foster kid, you generally get nothing. This is very helpful for people who don’t have money lying around.”
Bray said the community has been very supportive of the program.
“It means a lot to me. My heart just feels like this is such a need. We want people to come here before they go to a store. It can get so expensive,” she said.
For more information about the Rainbow Room, contact Bray at [email protected] or call her at 265-7794.