Cassandra: What strikes me most about my experience bouncing my way through foster care in the late 1990’s is the infrastructure of the system. It is a sprawling, multi-faceted system. For example:
· Each home may have preferences about the types of children they are willing to accept.
· They may have more preferences about what types of children they will accept on an emergency basis.
· Each group home has a maximum capacity.
· The families housing foster kids still go on vacation. (The new foster children mostly do not- they cannot be transported across state boundaries, and probably have a court date to attend soon anyways- if they were welcome in the first place.)These are all examples of why I called my experience “bouncing.” The system is placing children sometimes on a day-to-day basis. The problem is so big and so time consuming, sometimes all the system is hoping for is each child in a bed by bedtime.
Now my story is compiled of a mish-mash of problems, odd situations, and oversights from county health offices, which were just doing what they needed to do to get through their workload. My story is not the run-of –the-mill kid in foster care story. The thing about my story is that I understood it.
On one occasion when I was being transported from home, I kindly told the worker to wait 30 minutes so I could properly gather my belongings. I had a travel bag full of outfits; I grabbed my popular-brands of perfume and other not-so essentials, and tossed a couple of my wrapped Christmas presents in there for good measure. I had it all figured out, and had been dealing with these kinds of moves for many years. My story didn’t happen out of nowhere. Or in the middle of the night. But so many children’s stories do.
Imagine being swooped up from wherever you are, doing whatever children do, having your belongings stuffed in a store brand, garbage bag, and sent to a place where nothing is familiar, and that bag will probably tear before you get there. (That is, if you are lucky enough to have someone be able to gather some of your belongings. If not, you may have a small allowance that can buy a few outfits at a discount merchant, outfits that you will still stuff in a garbage bag). Now, not only is your situation unfamiliar, but remember, you’re a child. You probably have no idea why you are there anyways.
So what’s the big deal about the garbage bag? It’s cheap, it’s sort-of efficient, and it’s the best they can do in that chaos of displacement.
But it comes at a high cost for the foster kid, whose life is about to change. Again. The garbage bag signifies that nothing is normal. Do you ever take a garbage bag full of clothes to Grandma’s? What about on summer vacation, or a sleepover? It’s shocking enough to be transplanted, sometimes several times in a month, to foster homes or group homes. A suitcase is symbolic of family trips and holidays. A suitcase brings faith to a child that his or her unfamiliar situation is just temporary. It is not as scary and open-ended as a torn, stuffed trash bag.
A suitcase will be less likely to get mixed up with someone else’s black trash bag. It is definitely less likely to be mistaken for trash. If the only reminders a child can carry with them can be mistaken for trash, isn’t that heartbreaking?
Please consider contributing suitcases and duffel bags to this very personal drive. We have currently collected 80 suitcases - that's 80 kids who no longer have to feel like everything they own is little better than trash. And that's amazing.
All of our stores are accepting donations at this time.