By Kimberley A. Lee
VP Office of Advancement for CHD
Imagine you’re five or nine or maybe 15 years old. You’re handed a black plastic trash bag and instructed to put the few things you own into that bag because your case worker is picking you up to move you to a different foster home.
Being told to toss what little worldly possessions you own into a trash bag. How that must make a child feel placing their things in a bag that others use to throw things away. I can only imagine the sheer terror, the anxiety these children are feeling in not knowing where they are going or with whom they will soon live. In fact, as I am writing this my mouth is dry, my palms are sweating and I’m shaking as I consider the emotions they are experiencing at such a young age.
Foster children can have incredibly sad personal stories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, trauma, PTSD, attachment disorder. Many have no parents to go home to. Others have no desire to reunite with parents that neglected and abused them. Some of those foster children are fortunate enough to spend time stabilizing their lives in a CHD Caring Together Residential Treatment program. Through these home-based programs in Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee, our professional direct care teams provide foster children in transition with integrated mental health, occupational therapy and nursing services. Referrals to all Caring Together Residential Treatment group homes are made through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families or the Department of Mental Health.
Caring Together isn’t a permanent foster placement. Rather, if a foster care placement isn’t working out, a child is sent to us for stabilization and assessment. Our staff considers relationship dynamics, emotional wellness, academic and social progress in school, and more. By design, programming is short-term, but children can be with us for as short a stay as overnight or as long as several months while we work for reunification with families or identification of a more appropriate foster home.
So how does a trash bag figure in? CHD is looking for one or more local business partners to sponsor the procurement of appropriate travel bags we can give to each foster child we serve in Caring Together. Ideally we’d like to provide each child a sturdy duffel bag large enough to hold their clothes plus personal hygiene items, a small blanket and small pillow. We’d love if you’d allow employees to help us assemble the bags with these items so a child can have a complete bag on a moment’s notice.
Not long ago, a 9-year-old boy arrived at Caring Together in Springfield, dropped his plastic trash bag on the floor and announced, “I’m so happy to be home!” He’d already been to nine foster homes in his short life. He was at Caring Together once before and he loved it. When this boy is ready to move in with a new foster family, wouldn’t it be great if he could pack his belongings into his very own bag? And not the kind people use for garbage—the kind they take on a trip! If this sounds like something you or your company can get behind, please call me directly at 413-439-2252. If individual readers want to pitch in, we’d love you to send a check to CHD, Attn: Kim Lee, 332 Birnie Avenue, Springfield MA 01107.
We estimate each new bag to cost just about $25.00. It’s not a lot of money, but think of the long-term impact on a vulnerable child when the bag they’re asked to pack isn’t made for trash, but instead one that says you’re important and cared for. I hope a few folks will help out. Thank you.
Your contribution can help a child feel more comfortable and purposeful when they are making their next move.