For a child, entering foster care is never an easy or comfortable time. It can be an awkward, often harsh transition filled with uncertainty, fear, and doubt. Children can be in foster care due to losing their parents, being removed from unfit parents, or in some of the worst cases, they can bounce around the foster care system from family to family for years, just hoping to find a place to truly call home.
This is no small problem, either. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported a staggering 427,910 children entered the foster care system in 2015 alone. Some of those children are adopted as foster children. Others are being placed into one foster home from another. Still others are pulled from unfit homes and situations for their own protection, having scars from the past to add to the fears of the present and future. They can feel alone, unwanted, discarded, or isolated. But there is hope within the foster system.
The organization Together We Rise is working around the nation to help foster children of all ages with the help of former foster kids and other highly-motivated young people. Founded by the uncle of a foster child who was found living in a car, Together We Rise is passionate about making sure every foster child in America is taken care of properly, given a support system, and reassured with a sense of community and family.
In all too many unfortunate cases, Social Services and law enforcement must remove children from their homes with little or no warning. They do this for the child’s own protection when they are found to be suffering neglect or abuse. They can be given as little as a garbage bag and a few minutes to gather a few possessions before being taken away to a strange environment with the hope that it will be better than the last one.
To help combat this problem, one of the things Together We Rise does is to provide foster children with “Sweet Cases.” These are gifts — given to foster care agencies, police departments, Child Protective Services, and foster parents around the nation — for foster children, which include items such as a duffle bag, teddy bear, blanket, hygiene kit, crayons, and a coloring book. The Sweet Cases give those children some of the essential items they need, along with personal items for comfort. The Sweet Cases also help decrease the trauma of entering a new foster care environment and increase self-esteem in each of the children.
That certainly was the case for Antonio, a 7-year-old boy who received a Sweet Case when he was recently placed with a foster family. Inside the Sweet Case, along with many other items, was something he had never owned before: his own toothbrush. And while some children may not like having to brush their teeth, Antonio was overjoyed at having his own at long last. He wrote a thank-you note in crayon to Together We Rise, and on the back was written, “P.S. — I will even brush my teeth and be happy tonight without getting mad. Love, Antonio.” Underneath that was a drawing with the caption: “Me sleeping happy with my bear & blanket.”
It’s hard to imagine waiting until the age of 7 to own a toothbrush, but that’s what Antonio had to face. And once he got his first one from Together We Rise, he knew he could finally go to bed happy — and of course his new teddy bear was there to help him sleep soundly, as well!
Antonio’s foster mom was just as grateful to Together We Rise, writing a letter to the organization, saying, “I know you are super busy, but Antonio has asked me every day if you got his thank you card. He has enjoyed the bag so much and still takes it everywhere with him! He talks about you all the time and talks like y’all are best friends! He really struggles with self-esteem, and it is so wonderful to see him light up when he talks about his ‘team mates’ and friends! We just wanted to re-express how grateful we are! Keep up the awesome work; it makes such a difference!! — Darrick, Jennifer, Antonio, and baby Eric.”
Now you can help provide more Sweet Cases to foster children in need! Thanks to your support so far, 46 children were able to enter the foster system with a little less fear, trauma, and indignity. We want to keep that number growing every day as long as there are children who need it. By supporting Together We Rise’s Sweet Cases Program, you can help more children during their transition into a new foster home with the essentials and comforts that they need. Find out how you can help donate to this amazing program by clicking below!
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.