The following was developed for Rotary clubs in districts within the state of Texas. Other states have shown interest and some have participated. This is in no way intended to be limited to clubs in this state. All are welcome to participate.

I. My first suggestion would be to appoint a chairperson to head up a committee. The committee would probably be comprised of the chairperson with members to take charge of food, games, facilities, organizations, gift bags, and a Child Protective Services coordinator (CPS).

II. CPS will be the first outside group to contact. The state of Texas has designated a Community Initiative Specialist (CIS) as the liaison between Rotary and the CPS regional offices. There will be one in each region. The contact is the "CIS name @dfps.state.tx.us. There are only eleven regions and these almost coincide with the state's Rotary Districts. Making contact with the specific person will begin the process. This person with CPS is aware of the program and has been authorized to assign regional personnel to assist in it. Please refer to the CPS MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU) for details of what they are assigned to do.

In the interest of the children, CPS, and Rotary there may be a required background check on those who will be attending your party. This will be conducted with utmost security and results will be made known to no one other than each individual. The form to be filled out for submission is available here.

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOUR ROTARY CLUB UNDERSTAND THAT CPS HAS SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE INVITEES WHO COME TO THE PARTY. ROTARY IS TO ONLY BE THE CATERER FOR THE EVENT. VOLUNTEERS TO HELP WILL BE DISCRETIONARY WITH ROTARY AND WILL BE DISCUSSED IN THE DETAIL OF THE GAMES, ETC.

III. Make certain that at all times the number of attendees is known. CPS must provide the numbers of who are invited and continue to update this information. Rotary will also need to know how many of the membership will attend.

IV. Food may not be primary but it is Significant. Most clubs have prepared the most Simple of food to serve. Hotdogs, chips, drinks, and cookies. Success has been achieved in finding and listing available sources and contacting one in each of the categories for donations. To date no one has refused to help. Some clubs have gone so far as to have pizza, or hamburgers. Snow cones, popcorn, and cotton candy are some other ideas clubs have had. Fun food is the key here. Remember to have plates, napkins, cups, utensils, condiments, plastic serving gloves, ice for drinks, and serving spoons.

V. Games that are age oriented will be important. Most of the children will be under 10 years old, but some will have older teens who will come to help watch the younger ones in their families and may consider themselves too old to play. Have a clown if at all possible, even if there is a fee involved. Chances are the fee will be waived in subsequent years. If you have a Rotaract and/or an Interact Club, get them involved. The teens are much better equipped to run the games. Another source for teens to help would be club member’s family.

VI. "Things" to have for the children to entertain them besides a clown are mascots, you will find some pretty interesting ones from local police and fire, DEA, banks, schools, and some fast food restaurants. A moon walk, horses to ride, portable amusement rides and a fire engine and police car are suggestions. Be certain to have a police car with an officer to show the children all about what they do and how they do it. This is critically important as it was a policeman who came to the door and took the children away from their parents with the CPS caseworker. That fear will dissolve quickly as the party begins. Sometimes the children are allowed to turn on the siren.

VII. Donations are always difficult to ask for. In the development and continuation of the picnic project donations have been generously given by all who were asked. There are national organizations who will help as well as local companies. Wal-Mart has been extremely generous in most of the requests of them. Timing is important as all companies budget for donations and earlier is better. Each Rotary Club will need to search out the possibilities with this. In the area of food all local sources, restaurants, grocery stores, and wholesale suppliers have been most willing to supply what you will need. Each year this task becomes easier.

VIII. Where to hold the event may provide a number of possibilities. The best would be a place where there is limited access. Remember, these children are protected by the state and do not need any interruption in their fragile lives. The event must be absolutely closed to outsiders unless approved for attendance. Picnics have been held at zoos, parks, amusement parks, museums, and fair grounds. All were either in a private area or held during non-operating hours to the public.

IX. In the MOU there is a requirement for all members of Rotary attending the picnic to be cleared to attend with a background check. Please understand this is now a major project that will be publicized state wide and will be a perfect way for the wrong person to become involved in Rotary. This is not what we know will happen, but there must not be an opportunity for one to enter in.

At the same time you will be expected to fill out one other form as a club to include your event into the Rotary International Liability Insurance Policy. The form can be obtained from RI or by clicking of the forms link on this site.

X. And finally, this is a party no different than a school class party or a child's birthday party. The difference is that very few of these children know each other and may not even know why they were invited. That should not be an issue. All they should know is someone is having a picnic and they were invited. No pictures are to be taken unless authorized by CPS.

It is planned that CPS will invite prospective parents who are interested in adopting a child. It is a golden opportunity for them to observe a few children who may need a permanent home someday. Children have been adopted as a result of this picnic project. Seeing a child in real life places a whole new perspective in the prospect of adopting. (There were 29 children placed for adoption in a small Rotary town in Maryland. Nineteen of these were adopted as a result of the Rotary picnic held for them.)

This how-to list of items to consider in holding a picnic for children in foster care is by no means finite. It is mind shattering in the number of unique ideas that have developed and all have been good. This has been a presentation to offer a view on what has been done in the past.

As a final note, be certain to ask the donors of the things given for your picnic or party to attend. Also be certain to present them with a letter of appreciation, plaque, or certificate of appreciation for their help. I am certain I need not to explain why.

If anyone in your community ever asks "What does Rotary Do?" you will have one of the best answers to give.

For more required reading and forms that you will be needing, please familiarize yourself with the following pages locate on this site:

• CPS Memorandum of Understanding
• CPS CIS Contact Information
• Background Authorization Form
• Rotary International Forms and Instructions’

 
 

 

 

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