A newborn discharged from the hospital into foster care with nothing, not even diapers or formula. A 6-month-old dropped off at a foster home wearing a party dress two sizes too big because it was the only clothing option her CPS caseworker could find. A 4-year-old desperate for distraction, and comfort, after being taken into foster care on the worst night of his life.
As foster parents and advocates for children in the system, these aren’t just stories we’ve heard. These are stories we’ve lived when children have arrived at our doorsteps with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Even when children who are entering the foster care system are allowed to bring along items from home, typically those items have been hastily shoved in a trash bag, years of memories reduced to a container best used for last night’s leftovers. More than 22,000 children are removed from their homes by CPS in the state of Texas every year.
We want better for them. We consulted with local foster care agencies and CPS, and we came up with the idea for Hope Packs — backpacks or diaper bags filled with items that children who are entering the system need most. The item lists for Hope Packs feature a mix of necessities, such as formula, diapers and wipes, and comfort items, such as stuffed animals, jammies, nightlights and coloring books, intended to ease the transition for kids who are coming into care. After we receive completed packs, we distribute them to foster care agencies and CPS caseworkers who can take them along when they’re placing children in new homes.
Since we became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in July 2016, we have distributed more than 5,000 Hope Packs to foster children.
“Just placed a 10-day-old baby girl. She came with absolutely nothing (not even formula) and one of the diaper bags you guys donated was a lifesaver for her and the foster family! Thank you and all the donors so much for your hard work — you are meeting a huge need!” – Grace Kelsoe, Helping Hand Home case manager
“Carrying Hope is one of the most impactful organizations in Austin. I requested Hope Packs for a group of six siblings that recently moved in with their grandmother. She had lost her job due to the placement and the various appointments that the children needed to attend. Not only did Carrying Hope accommodate my request within a week, but they truly went above and beyond. In addition to providing basic needs (diapers, clothing, socks) they also provided gift cards and various books and toys. When delivering the packs, each child’s face brightened and they ran to see what was inside. They were excited to read their names and knew someone had thought specifically of them. Their grandmother continuously expressed her gratitude and the burden that had been lifted. When a child is removed, they are often faced with fear, distrust and despair. Carrying Hope truly lives up to their name – they remind children and their caregivers that their community is supporting them and to not give up.” – Rachel Jackson, CASA child advocacy specialist
“When I do placements, the kids are usually coming into a foster home with nothing at all. These Hope Packs help foster families get through the first night and day until they can go shopping. The kids are excited about literally everything in their Hope Pack. They love the toys, the flashlights are a huge hit, the nightlights are super helpful because a lot of these kids are terrified of the dark, and some of the kids really attach to their stuffed animal and will carry it around for the entire night. When I visited with one of the little boys I had placed the day before, I asked him what he liked to play with. He pointed to the LEGO set that I had brought him in his Hope Pack and told me it was his favorite toy of all time.” – Sara Wehring, Lonestar Social Services
“Carrying Hope has supported the Bastrop office for a while now and today I picked up 40 to take to my coworkers in Waco. The expression on the children and caregiver’s faces when I walk into their home carrying these Hope Packs is priceless. The children are so happy to receive the bag itself and they don’t even know what’s inside of it yet. The things that I have noticed children being most excited about are things that most of us take for granted like, socks, underwear, a pretty hair brush, or a new cool toothbrush. The time and hard work put into making these Hope Packs what they are is definitely appreciated by everyone that receives them as well as by the caseworkers that get to deliver them. It is clear that each detail is thought out, including the cute bags the items are put in. It is all stuff that children can be proud to have. Thank you for being a support to our families.” – Kendall Yañez, kinship development worker covering Bastrop, Lee, & Fayette Counties