NORFOLK, Va. — A viral Facebook post is raising awareness about a common issue foster children encounter: not having a proper place to store their belongings when they’re removed from a home.
The image being shared across the social media website urges people to donate old suitcases to foster care organizations because oftentimes, foster children transport their belongings in trash bags.
Joy Rios, the founder of Connect with a Wish, a non-profit that helps foster children, said it happens more often than many people realize.
“The garbage bag thing happens when it's not planned. That's when CPS comes on-site and there's an issue and the child needs to be immediately removed,” said Rios.
“It’s a hard enough night as it is, being removed from your home, then they're being placed with a stranger, and they have nothing when they go to bed.”
That's why Rios started the Handle with Care program five years ago. The program is all about packing 'go' bags for foster children. Each bag is filled with the items a child will need in the first 24 hours after being removed from their home. Things like pajamas, a blanket, a toothbrush, and socks. Each bag is catered to a child depending on their age, and Rios takes the bags to the Department of Human Services in Virginia Beach. There, the bags are stored in the Child Protective Services unit until they’re needed.
Rios said the bags give the children one less thing to worry about as they make the difficult transition into a new home.
“You want them to come in with the dignity of not just walking in the door with nothing, that they own something, cause everything’s been taken and it’s a big deal,” said Rios.
Rios said ever since the post began making its rounds on Facebook a couple of days ago, there has been a spike in the number of people reaching out to her organization, looking for a way to help.
Rios was glad to see that the post is bringing awareness to issues foster children often face.
“It takes a village and these kids, and foster parents and a social worker is just not enough. We need to be the community around them to pick up these pieces, to give them what they need to be successful in life,” said Rios.
Something as simple as a bag can go a long way during what may be the most difficult moment in a foster child's life.