The disposable and unwanted. That’s what ends up in trash bags – those things that are of no use anymore.
So what does it say about our foster-care system that a child’s possessions can be (and are) put into one garbage bag? What message are we sending those children as they navigate through life? What does such cavalier treatment reveal about us?
When entering a foster home for the first time after losing his parents, Rob Scheer carried all of his possessions in a single black garbage bag. When he left the foster-care system, seven years later, he toted everything he owned the same way. One throwaway bag for a thrown-away child.
Rob’s case is not unusual – in fact, the four foster children currently under his care arrived to their new home exactly the same way – garbage bag in tow.
However, Rob did not accept that the parameters of a life could be defined by the dimensions of a garbage bag. As a “graduate” of the system, Rob wanted to give foster children a more dignified entree to their new life by eliminating the stigma of garbage-bag suitcases.
Together with his daughter Amaya, Rob created Comfort Case – an organization providing a small suitcase, duffel bag, or backpack to foster children (in the Washington D.C. area).
Inside the colorful totes are:
- A Pajama Set
- Toothbrush and Tooth Paste
- Stuffed Animal
- Athletic Shorts or Sweatpants
- Hair Brush and Comb
- Lotions and Soaps
- Coloring Books and Crayons
- Pens and Pencils
Many of the children who benefit from this small gesture have never before been provided such “luxuries” – either prior to placement or upon leaving their foster home.
There is no doubt that foster care in the United States is in dire need of improvement on many levels. Youths who have left foster care are more likely than those in the general population to drop out of high school, be unemployed, and be dependent on public assistance. Many find themselves in prison, homeless, or parents at an early age – sad statistics from AFCARS.
As small a gesture as it may seem, Comfort Cases is one step to improvement. For kids caught in the foster-care vortex, a new carry-all and a few things to call their own says “I’m more than trash.” The gift Rob Scheer and his company provide is intended to boost the sense of self worth for these children – and give them a head-start along an otherwise arduous journey.