Lauren Baker unveils child welfare initiative

From Boston Herald Posted in Press Coverage

Lauren Baker, the wife of Gov. Charlie Baker, is looking to nearly quadruple fundraising for a nonprofit that funnels money through the state’s child welfare agency in the hopes of helping the most vulnerable children have the “same childhood wonder” as any other kid.

Baker is aiming to increase donations to the Massachusetts Wonderfund from last year’s $400,000 total to $1.5 million.

The fund provides Department of Children and Families foster kids with childhood staples like sports equipment, school fees, piano lessons, summer camp, and other expenses.

“These children are in every city and town in Massachusetts, and they are among our state’s most vulnerable children,” Baker said during an appearance on Boston Herald Radio, where she announced her involvement in the nonprofit after 18 months of quietly working to get the fund ready for the spotlight.

“They deserve to have the same childhood wonder as any other child,” she said.

When asked if Wonderfund would disclose who makes donations to the nonprofit now that it’s the first lady’s public priority, executive director Jennifer Kitchenham said the organization “complies with all laws and regulations for private nonprofit organizations, and as the fund launches, the board will be considering future disclosure policies.”

Wonderfund’s ambitious new goal and Baker’s support were hailed by the state’s child advocate Maria Z. Mossaides, who said the small grants for lessons, sports gear, or summer camps bridge what isn’t covered by the stipends that foster parents get.

“Those are things above and beyond what the stipend was designed to cover,” Mossaides told the Herald.

“They become important sources so we can help these children ... do what the other kids at school are doing.”

Mossaides added: “This is a wonderful choice she made. ... My hope is every citizen of the commonwealth really embraces these children.”

Baker said her passion for children pushed her toward jumping headlong into the nonprofit a year and a half ago — rather than any of the heart-wrenching stories from Hardwick or Auburn or Boston of kids who tragically fell through the cracks at DCF.

“It’s not about any particular story,” Baker said. “It’s about serving children, and this particular population of children.”