Being a kid is tough. Being a kid in foster care can be downright demoralizing. Children in the foster care system are often removed from their homes at a moment's notice. There's little time for packing. Their belongings are often bundled into plastic bags or carried out by the armful.
"There are times when we're called to a home," Yvonne Harris, a human services worker with Child Protective Services in Payson said. "It's in the middle of the night. We put whatever we can grab in whatever we can find. We don't even have plastic bags. We carry things out in our arms."
That's where Ethel Dillon's new program, Foster Children on the Move, comes in.
Dillon is a Family Assistance office support worker at the Department of Economic Security. She also is a foster mother of two children, ages 8 and 9. And she knows some of the problems foster care children have. That's why she's collecting suitcases for foster children, so they'll have something they can call their own -- something that will give them a sense of dignity.
"In foster care, what we'll see is that they transport their belongings in paper or plastic bags, or the big trash bags," she said. "It's a sad thing to see. They've been through so much already. For them to have to carry their belongings that way, it's really sad."
Making the move easier
Once children are in the foster care system, they accumulate things, Dillon said. The state provides foster children with an allowance for clothing and education expenses. Their clothing, books and toys are taken from one foster home to another, to the homes of relatives, and sometimes, back to their family's home.
Dillon started collecting suitcases in October for the 40 foster children in the Payson area. She has 10 suitcases ready to distribute, each fastened with a colorful cross-stitched name tag holder. The children in Payson's foster care system range in age from infants to 18-year-olds.
"Each situation is different," she said, "but (the suitcases will) help the transition be a little smoother for the children. They'll make them a little more comfortable about what they're having to do, give them a little more dignity."
The number of foster children in Payson is increasing, Harris said.
"Payson has grown and (Child Protective Services) has noticed the growth," she said. "We have more families, more cases in the system. There's definitely been an increase in intake -- that's where you remove the child and that's where they go into foster care. They move two or three times in the beginning until we can get them settled."
"And that's where I step in with the suitcases," Dillon said.
"We do need to help these children move," Harris said. "Basically, I would think clothes in a bag would make you feel like a homeless person."
For more information, call Dillon, Harris, or Olivia Covelli at 474-6019.