No More Bags for Foster Kids
Last year, more than 19,000 Texas children were removed from their homes due to evidence of abuse or neglect. Taken from everything they know and placed in foster care due to no fault of their own, many of these kids arrived at their placements wide-eyed and overwhelmed – with a trash bag of hastily packed possessions, if anything at all.
But one remarkable young man is helping these children in his own unique way.
What started as 16-year-old Hunter Beaton’s local-level Eagle Scout project has today, thanks to his dedication, grown into an amazing statewide effort to supply high-quality duffel bags for children who are removed from their homes.
Though many Eagle Scouts choose a construction-based service project, Hunter chose to focus his on an issue close to his heart. He has three adopted siblings who joined his family through foster care, the first of whom was placed with them when he was just 5 years old. The inspiration for his project came from memories of his siblings coming into their home with “nothing but a trash bag full of tattered clothes.”
“I got the idea from when I saw my adopted siblings coming into our home with nothing but a black trash bag full of their items… and one of them not having anything at all,” Hunter said. “It struck a chord with me.”
Within the span of just a couple of months, Hunter and his community succeeded in collecting more than $10,000 worth of donations to fill 100 duffel bags with supplies like clothing, diapers, coloring books and toothbrushes. He then donated the bags to Vault Fostering Community, a local foster family resource center.
Hunter’s mother, Paula, has heard many stories from foster parents and caseworkers about the impact her son’s project has had on their community.
“[One foster mom] said, of all the years that she has been fostering, these bags with the kids carrying them in hand was absolutely the nicest way for their first arrival and introductions,” Paula recounted. “So many times they are coming to their home with nothing or a grocery bag. These types of stories that are coming in make me realize that Hunter’s drive and initiative is making a difference in many lives.”
Even after receiving his Eagle Scout rank in May 2016, Hunter decided to continue pursuing his project. After all, he knew the bags he had initially assembled would be gone all too soon – so rather than stopping there, he was determined to take the project statewide and make it sustainable.
Today, Hunter is working to do just that by partnering with local suppliers, key Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) leaders, and the child welfare boards to encourage counties to budget for supplying duffel bags for children removed from home. So far, his hard work has resulted in 8 counties actively planning for bag acquisition and sustainment. He’s also coordinating with the Texas Council of Child Welfare Board and DFPS leadership to produce an educational video to distribute to all Texas counties explaining what it takes to sustain the effort.
Expanding this project has been a lot for a high school student to tackle, Hunter’s mom said. She’s very proud of him and the lasting impact he’s making in his community and across the state.
“He had nothing to gain, nothing related to scout advancement, but then I realized very quickly, that is just who Hunter is,” she said. “He looks at the bigger picture. He did not like the idea of going back to black trash bags for these kids.”
Hunter’s hope with this project is that the duffel bags give foster children a sense of belonging, comfort and dignity – the ability to arrive at a new home with something that is theirs; something that they can control during an otherwise chaotic time.
“These kids shouldn’t get any less than what any other kid should get,” Hunter said. “Having something, rather than nothing, when being placed into a new home makes them feel wanted – it gives them a sense of ‘I belong here.’”