RICHMOND, Va. — May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and a gathering at Anthem Wednesday will make sure many children going into foster care can start their journey with their own belongings, in their own suitcase.
"Comfort Cases," a non-profit started ten years ago by Rob Scheer, who himself aged out of the foster system without finding a forever home, was joined by volunteers with Anthem's "Healthkeepers Plus" to pack the new suitcases in a company conference room.
“The fact is that we [typically] give them this: a trash bag,” Scheer said, holding up a black plastic bag. “And we all know that what’s supposed to go in here is trash, not children’s clothing. You know, for me it all started in ’79, when I walked up my first driveway carrying one of these. And then 14 years ago, when my babies started arriving, I couldn’t believe that we are still carrying trash bags around in our foster care system.”
Scheer, who with his husband has adopted five children out of the foster care system, told me Comfort Cases has provided foster children with some 200,000 packed suitcases so far.
“These kids come into the system because of a choice someone else made,” said Scheer. “These kids do not belong to me. They don't belong to you. They belong to us. You know, people say all the time that you're investing in a child's future. You know, that it's something we should do. But the truth is, you invest in a child, you actually invest in your future. Because they are our leaders of tomorrow.”
He said he will never forget what it felt like putting his few belongings in a plastic trash bag, which he says no child should have to experience.
Scheer said part of his mission is to get people talking about the urgent need for foster families.
“We need to start talking about it,” said Scheer. “Talk about it at the water cooler. Foster care should be the topic, not just because it’s National Foster Care Awareness Month, but we should be talking every day about the future of these kids, because they’re our kids.”
Jennie Reynolds, Plan President for Anthem’s Healthkeepers Plus, said the room full of volunteers was sending a loud message to children. “We are here to create these comfort cases for them that will give these kids a blanket, a stuffy, personal hygiene products,” said Reynolds. “You know, they come with nothing. They don't feel wanted. They don't feel taken care of.”
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