The United States typically has over 50 million Thanksgiving holiday travelers each year. Many of these individuals are heading to see family and spend quality time with loved ones. Perhaps you are one of these travelers yourself. Would it stop you dead in your tracks to see someone walking through the airport with their clothes in a trash bag? What if a family member showed up to your home for the holidays with their things in a plastic grocery sack? Traveling without a suitcase seems humiliating and pitiful. Yet every day, children in foster care move with their belongings – all that they own – in black plastic trash bags.
Children in Foster Care Are Not Trash
Wait No More, Focus on the Family’s foster care and adoption program, wants to change the stereotype of children in foster care moving with their things in a trash bag. This November, 300 children in foster care received a brand new suitcase of their own. Inside the suitcase is a Bible with a handwritten note, as well as a cuddly, brown teddy bear. These items provide hope and encouragement to the child. They no longer have to move between homes with their processions in a trash bag. They are not trash, and neither are their things. This suitcase restores them with dignity and grace. The next time they move, their belongings will not be in a trash bag.
Something as simple as a suitcase can easily be taken for granted. People who travel for the holidays are probably grateful for their suitcases even if they do not recognize the importance. As Thanksgiving approaches, take a moment to think about children in foster care. Many of them lack necessary items such as a suitcase. This is an appropriate time of the year to be grateful for what you have and pray for those who are in need.
Psalm 34:18 (ESV) reminds us that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” This holiday season, pray for children in foster care to feel God’s presence. No matter how long a child is in foster care, celebrating the holidays can be painful and lonely. This may be the first Thanksgiving a child in foster care is not with their family – or this may be the fifth time. Pray for these children to find hope and encouragement this Thanksgiving. For more guidance on how to pray for children in foster care this Thanksgiving season, you can read a devotional written by Dr. Sharen Ford, Director of Foster Care and Adoption at Focus on the Family.
Foster Parents Testimonies of the Importance of a Suitcase
Children in foster care deserve to move with their items in a suitcase, not a trash bag. Most foster parents have witnessed the importance of a suitcase firsthand. In Kentucky, Lindsey Acree picked up a suitcase from Wait No More for a young boy in her home. “This suitcase is going to be his whether he goes back to family or he stays with us for a while,” she says with a smile. She elaborates that she often gets items monogrammed for the children who come to her home. Lindsey wants the kids to know that those items are theirs forever. Of the 19 placements that Lindsey has received, not a single child came with their things in a suitcase. Only two came with anything at all, and what they had came in a plastic bag.
Penny Worrill is another foster mom who knows the importance of a suitcase for children in foster care. Some of the children who have come to Penny’s home had a suitcase, but the 7-year-old girl who moved in five months ago came without one. “She’ll be thrilled to get one,” Penny exclaims. In thinking back to the children in foster care who did have a suitcase, Penny recalls how they would keep their personal stuff inside the suitcase and keep it under the bed. “They know where it’s at. They know they’ve got their stuff together,” she says, underscoring the importance of the children having something that is their own.
Changing the Story for Children in Foster Care This Thanksgiving
This November, Wait No More distributed 300 suitcases for Kentucky children in foster care across two days. Two on-the-ground organizations collaborated with Wait No More to facilitate the suitcase distribution: Orphan Care Alliance and Sunrise Children’s Services.
Rick Burslem, the vice president of marketing and advancement at Sunrise, sums up the importance of a suitcase for a child in foster care in one word: dignity. The staff at Sunrise wants to minimize the trauma that children in foster care experience. You might think, “Well, it’s just a suitcase.” But Rick continues, “It provides more order. It provides a greater sense of intentionality. This provides a little bit of that dignity.”
In Kentucky, many children in foster care frequently move back and forth between cities. Darren Washausen, president of Orphan Care Alliance, explains that this is because some of the more therapeutic services are available in Louisville, but the children, of course, are from all over the state. As a result, suitcases provide children a place to store their personal items each time they move.
For 300 Kentucky children in foster care, this Thanksgiving will look a little different than previous ones. The suitcase bundle provides a light of hope. The handwritten note inside the Bible reminds the child that someone loves them, even if they do not know their name. At a time when so many people are gathering together with loved ones, these children in foster care now have tangible items that make them feel seen and loved.
How You Can Make a Difference
Next time you pack your suitcase for a trip, such as traveling for Thanksgiving, think about children in foster care. Say a prayer for them. And as you gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving with family, know that there are children in foster care who need someone like you to take action. If you feel called to foster or adopt, do not wait. There are children in need of a family.
But if you do not feel called to foster or adopt, think of other ways to make a difference. If you feel led to provide a suitcase, teddy bear, and Bible to a child in foster care, you can make a monthly or single donation by clicking here. A child’s story will be forever changed.