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Bags aim to make transition to foster homes easier

A few years ago, a young West Virginia boy was finally able to get out of his abusive home and into foster care.

Ready for a new start, the boy hurriedly packed his meager belongings. He didn't have a duffel bag or suitcase, so he stuffed what little he had into a garbage bag.

When he arrived at his foster home, he found garbage inside the bag instead of his belongings.

In his haste, the boy grabbed the wrong bag.

This story has stuck with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin ever since a child caseworker told it to him two years ago.

It's also spurred him to action.

"Can you imagine how that would feel?" Goodwin asked. "To have to carry your belongings, what little you may have, in a garbage bag and then to open it to find garbage?

"It's demoralizing."

Goodwin's office is partnering with local advocacy groups to make sure children heading into foster care have everything they need to make a good transition.

Goodwin, the state's Southern District attorney, and representatives from Mission West Virginia and the Children's Home Society announced the "Give Thanks and Carry On" campaign earlier this week. It's part of Mission West Virginia's Carry On campaign, which runs year round.

To each of those kick-off events, held in Charleston, Beckley, Princeton and other locales, Goodwin carried a black and gray camouflage rolling suitcase packed with a blanket, books, toiletries and a few games. The bag also included a hand-crank flashlight, which he said was very popular with his own son.  

He said often the children are transitioning into foster care from homes where they were abused or neglected. They aren't given very much time to pack their things before they are removed from their homes, he said, and often grab the first thing they can find.

More often than not, it's a garbage bag.  

"This program is designed to give them something other than a garbage bag to carry with them and some form of care package. And it can be anything they think a child would need or want in transition," Goodwin said.  

The goal is to provide new or gently used luggage, duffel bags, or closeable totes for foster children. He said the organizations would also like to include care packages of toiletries, personal care items, toys and books in the bags.

The new items and activities lend a positive distraction to children already in a bad situation, with so much on their minds.

Goodwin said his office got involved in the campaign because of its aim to be "as much about preventing crime as prosecuting crime."

"With this, we're engaging the community and letting a child know there is something positive in all of this, there are people out there who care about them and want them to succeed and do something positive with their lives," he said.

It's a multi-agency partnership that includes the state Department of Health and Human Resources, Mission West Virginia, the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney's Institute and the West Virginia Drug Endangered Children Task Force.

Workers will provide the bags to children as they are packing up to leave their homes.

The program is year round, but the campaign makes a push during the holidays. Goodwin and others hope that while residents are shopping for loved ones, they will also pick up something extra for the children.

"So, if you're out shopping during Black Friday or at some point this holiday season, take a moment and pick up an essential item or two to benefit a child in need," he said.

He encourages residents to take part in the campaign and to do what they can. A care package is not required. The bag itself is the most important part, he said.

Other items being requested are coats, hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, earmuffs, socks and blankets.

Items can be dropped off during normal business hours at any regional DHHR location around the state and Children's Home Society locations.

For more information call 866-CALL-MWV (866-225-5698) or email crobey@

missionwv.org.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.


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