Children and youth in foster care can move an average of seven times before the age of 18. Usually, they leave abruptly and with very few personal belongings. In some cases, there is no time to find a backpack or suitcase, so they collect their items and compile them into a trash bag. Imagine the situation and message that is being sent to the child while putting their things into a trash bag. Can you feel the confusion and embarrassment of carrying everything you own in a trash bag?
In 2008, Focus on the Family launched Wait No More®. A program that prepares hearts and homes for kids in foster care – whether for a season or a lifetime. The program includes ways to support kids in foster care. And one such way is by providing a suitcase, bible, and teddy bear to children in foster care. Through the donations at Wait No More events and Focus on the Family, the ministry is able to provide these bundles to children across the country.
Two programs have been recipients of these efforts, Hannah’s Closet in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Westside Family Church in Kansas City, Kansas. Both ministries have shared how valuable these bundles have been for their communities.
Carly Souza – Hannah’s Closet
Carly Souza received fifty suitcase bundles. She placed them in a foster closet that she opened last year called Hannah’s Closet. This ministry allows foster families to come in and shop for what they need free of charge. They provide toys, clothes, shoes, diapers, and the list goes on.
At first, the suitcase bundles sent over were kept together, with the Bible, teddy bear, and suitcase all in one. After some time, Carly realized that some kids came in and just needed a Bible, or just needed a suitcase. When she noticed this, she split the bundles according to need, so a child could be blessed with a Bible or suitcases, since they do not need both.
As the kids saw the suitcase bundles, Carly heard comments like, “I have never had a suitcase before.” One girl could not contain her excitement and said, “This is the first thing I’ve had that will hold all of my stuff, and I am not embarrassed to carry it around.” Wow, how exciting is it that these children will no longer feel embarrassed and will not have to carry their things in a trash bag!
Another teenage boy was looking at the teen Bible sent with the suitcases. He was not intrigued by it, but when he saw the Adventures and Odyssey Bible, his face lit up. Not only are the suitcase bundles easing pain, but they are teaching these kids about Jesus through Scripture.
Jenny Venning – Westside Family Church
The Foster Adoption Ministry at Westside Family Church received bundles of suitcases to distribute. Jenny Venning, the care community coordinator, shared that they delivered the bundles of suitcases to youth in the foster care system that were about to graduate high school.
Upon receiving the suitcase bundles, the Foster Adoption Ministry team sought to fill the suitcases even more. A local company donated handmade quilts, people gave gift cards, and others wrote handwritten notes. The ministry received a list of graduating seniors’ names from local agencies to personalize a note to them. They placed all these things in the suitcases, along with the Bibles.
Once they filled the suitcases, they dropped them off at the local agencies for the caseworkers to distribute. Jenny expressed that the caseworkers were thrilled and excited to bless the graduating seniors.
When asked why the suitcases were necessary for graduating seniors, Jenny replied, “The statistics for kids who age out of the foster care system are not favorable. It is such a blessing to these kids because they are going off on their own, with something to call their own. It feels like we are giving these kids a chance.”
The Importance of Suitcase Bundles
Carly and Jenny both believe that there will always be a need for the suitcase bundles. Children and youth in foster care face a constant risk of being moved. It is common for children and youth who grow up in foster care to move homes and schools more than ten times.
While each case is different, some of these children are carrying trash bags around each move. These suitcase bundles can change many of their lives.
Are you willing to donate to the Wait No More and provide a child with a suitcase, Bible, and teddy bear? You could change a child’s life.