I got married at 33. I started trying to have children at 35. When I realized it wasn’t in the cards for me to birth a child, I dove head first into community engagement. One of the places I enjoyed helping was The Safe Room – a division of DCS. This is where foster children in Nashville go while they are waiting for a foster placement. Here they can get snacks, play with video games or toys, and even take a nap on a couch until a family social worker takes them to their new foster home. While working with Safe Room, I started thinking about how my husband and I could help. We had a loving home and could offer a safe place to a foster child. I knew the journey could prove difficult, but I knew we could handle it. We went through all the foster classes and were ready to give it a shot!
One of our foster children was a three year old girl. We were excited to bring her into our home, but we didn’t quite realize what this new experience would bring. The day she arrived at our house, we opened the door and met a beautiful little girl with her social worker. I still remember the social worker saying, “You might wanna go through this bag before you bring it in your house.” It was a black plastic trash bag that held all of this little girl’s possessions. She didn’t have a suitcase. She didn’t even have clean clothes.
Later that evening, once she was fed, bathed, and soothed with ointment for her bed bug bites, she fell asleep with the lights on. I went to look through her trash bag. There were a few broken toys and some old worn out dolls. None of the clothes were the correct size. There were no family photos or cards in the bag.
During the next three weeks, our friends started donating age appropriate toys, and we bought clothes, etc. With minimal background knowledge before she arrived, and only the half filled garbage bag that came with her, I started a scrapbook of sorts. I added photos from her playing in the yard, and playing with musical toys in the house. I included her likes and dislikes. I knew wherever she was headed after us, she needed to have a voice and something to call her own.
Three weeks later we received a phone call from her caseworker at 5:45p.m. We were informed that the judge had awarded her to an aunt, and she would be coming to get her within the hour. One hour is all we had to pack up her life, and say our goodbyes. We grabbed a suitcase and an athletic bag and filled them full of clothes, stuffed animals, toys and, of course, the scrapbook.
I wish I had known about My Bag My Story while I was fostering this sweet little girl. Knowing that for every bag bought, one is donated, I would have supported them sooner. Every child deserves more than a trash bag.