A while ago I was visiting a forum about foster care in which I participate.
One of the entries I read concluded with the signature above noting, gHefty: The Official Luggage of Foster Care.h
This evoked very strong and bad memories for me of the years I spent in foster care.
I was in care from February 1950 until aging out in June 1968. During the course of these years I was moved 15 times; the final move was the aging out process.
Each of the moves, as far back as I have memory of, involved my worldly possessions being packed in a gplain brown paper grocery bag.h This was the means used back in my days in care.
I have very vivid memories of those moves and being told to , ggo pack my things.h I didnft have much and it wouldnft take me long to pack; there was always room left empty in the bag. The amount in the bag is not the issue but rather the bag itself.
I know what it feels like to pack your belongings in a paper bag or the plastic garbage bags used for many years. I always felt degraded, humiliated, a second class citizen, feeling worthless, feeling that no one gave a damn are just a few of the feelings I experienced during those moves. The pain of those years remain to a degree today as when I go to the grocery store I refuse to have items placed in the brown paper bags!
In the early 70's the system, according to them, graduated to the large Hefty plastic ggarbageh bags. These are still used in the majority of situations involving the move of foster children from home to home today.
How a child must feel knowing there possessions are considered only good enough to be thrown in ggarbageh bags. Yes, this sure would help one gain self confidence and self worthcNOT!
Because this is an issue that still affects me today after aging out so long agoc.I decided to do something about it in my local community. I began what I called, gHope & Dignity Project.h Hope was for believing someone cares. Dignity was for having a dignified way of moving onefs worldly goods.
I called and organized organizations, students from schools, churches, businesses and individuals in my first effort as well as succeeding ones.
In the first effort funding was received to purchase 100, 30 nylon duffel bags as youth prefer these over suitcases.
These bags will be able to hold a large quantity of personal property of youth entering care.
Funding was further received to purchase material to make gtie blanketsh or buy gquilt blanketsh to go into each of the bags. Based on the type and style of the blankets determined if each bag was for a young girl or boy or an older boy or girl and each bag was marked accordingly.
In each bag, in addition to the blanket, was packed with new soap, toothpaste/toothbrush, deodorant, comb or hairbrush, pencils, pens, a book, crayons, and coloring books for younger youth as well as stuffed animals (especially teddy bears) for younger children, notepads, lotions, mirrors for older girls as well as some costume jewelry which was received from a variety of donors including a collection conducted by the local high school.
I hope in some small way each youth will feel a sense of dignity and hope receiving the bags and realize someone cares about them.
Distribution was handled by the local social service office responsible for youth in care.
The bags were dropped at their office so they could give one to each child entering care as the child is usually taken by the office before going to a foster home. They can arrive at the foster home with this duffel bag, their personal items & the items placed in each bag.
When I moved to my current home in North Dakota I began a similar program as I did back in Michigan. Unfortunately no state is immune from having children entering foster care.
To date over 1000 duffel bags have been purchased, filled and distributed.
One of the great things that has also happened is that foster youth who have received these bags in the past are now participating in the project to see that current foster youth received one.
Though it does take effort, you to can begin such a program in your community. You will not believe how this small effort will positively affect a youth going through the trauma of being removed from their family, neighbors and friends. Yes, you give that small degree of hope and dignity!
It would be fantastic if each community had someone to begin a project such as this as I feel no child should be made to feel as a child does entering care with their worldly possessions in a hefty garbage bag.