In early April we rolled out our Nurture My Child Kids Helping Kids Campaign where we will be highlighting and supporting local non-profits and charities that work with children and families. I am so excited to announce that Carrying Hope is our first non-profit to partner with. Read below to learn more about the amazing work they do with local foster children!
Each year, more than 17,000 children in Texas are removed from their homes by CPS, many of them arriving at their new foster homes with nothing other than the clothes they are wearing, and occasionally, a few items hastily stuffed into a trash bag. Foster parents often rush to the store rather than spend time bonding with the foster child who arrives at their door at a moment’s notice––the tired, hungry baby who shows up without formula or bottles, the frightened 4-year-old who is removed from his home on what might be the worst day of his life without anything to call his own or provide him comfort, or an elementary student who needs a backpack and clothes for her first day at a new school.
As foster parents and advocates for children in the system, these aren't just stories we have heard. They are stories we have experienced firsthand. When Carrying Hope CEO Kristin Finan’s first foster daughter arrived late one Friday night, she came with nothing but the polka-dot party dress she was wearing, which was two sizes too big. When her little sister arrived later that year, she was discharged from the hospital without the essentials needed to get her through those first few days.
Carrying Hope, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was born out of our own experiences and shared concerns as well as conversations with local foster care agencies and CPS to determine their greatest needs. We came up with the idea for Hope Packs––backpacks or diaper bags filled with items that children entering the system need most. We wanted to create something more than a basic bag containing a blanket, coloring book and toiletry kit because that won’t meet the immediate needs of a foster child nor help the foster parent get through those first 48 hours without going to a store.
Instead, we sat down to curate detailed, well-thought out supply lists broken down by age and gender for newborns through teens, brainstorming items that would not only meet their needs (diapers, formula and clothing) but also things intended to bring comfort and provide a happy distraction in a moment of crisis (cuddly stuffed animals and soft blankets, night lights and flash lights, story books and crafts, and new toys and games).
We decided to hold our first Hope Pack drive less than a year ago, thinking if we could get just 20 bags, it would be a success. We bought 20 duffel bags, put up a post on the Circle C Residents Facebook Page and created an Evite to our drive, which took place during a June monsoon and involved around one hundred soggy neighbors who gathered beneath canvas tarps to drop off more than 130 Hope Packs––each one unique and bursting with special items picked out with love.
From our very first drive, kids were welcomed and encouraged to be part of the entire volunteer process––and we soon learned that no one is better at picking out things for kids than other kids. We have witnessed children selflessly selecting items they loved but imagined another child needing more; we have found handwritten, encouraging notes tucked into side pouches of backpacks; and we have heard about many honest conversations between parents and their own kids about what a foster child is and why they could use understanding and friendship.
This year, Carrying Hope’s goal is to collect and distribute 650 Hope Packs, which would allow us to give one to each child entering the foster care system in Travis County––and we need your help! Our annual Hope Pack drive is set for Saturday, July 22, from 9 a.m. to noon, at The Browning Hangar at Mueller (4550 Mueller Blvd. Austin, TX 78723). This is a great way to involve your family in a meaningful giving project this summer. Simply go to www.carryinghope.com, click "Make a Hope Pack," select the age and gender of a child you would like to help and go shopping to create a Hope Pack. Drop off your completed Hope Pack and stick around for some family-friendly fun and to learn about additional ways to help foster children in the area. If you have a big heart and a little extra time and money to give, you can help make a difficult transition a little brighter for kids entering the foster care system and the families caring for them. Thank you!