Comfort Cases, Vashti Center partners to ensure every foster child has luggage
THOMASVILLE- To commemorate National Adoption Month, Comfort Cases founder Rob Scheer and Amerigroup held a packing party with community members on Thursday morning at the Vashti Center. The packing party aimed to provide all children in Thomasville’s foster care system with a “Comfort Case” backpack, which is thoughtfully filled with essential person care items and a “Comfort XL,” 32-inch duffel bag.
The idea was the brainchild of Scheer. When Scheer aged out of foster care and adopted his own children with his partner, he saw they were still carrying trash bags, just as he did so many years ago and felt called to make a change.
At the packing party, Scheer shared his powerful story, while many foster care workers stood in the room, tearfully listening.
Scheer and his partner began fostering two siblings, before adopting them. While fostering the young girl, Scheer feared he would never see her smile, but a magical moment happened when she pulled the tag off her pajamas on her first night in their home; she smiled, stating she had never had her own pajamas before.
“My friends that’s not acceptable,” he said. “It’s not acceptable that a child comes into this system and doesn’t get a brand new pair of pajamas.”
After three months with two young children in his home, Scheer was contacted by the same social worker, who helped him foster the first time. She informed him she had two more boys, ages six months and two, who were on the fast track to adoption.
“Their mother was 12 when she gave birth to them,” Scheer said. “They came into the system with a brain bleed, Shaken Baby Syndrome and three broken ribs. The mother also decided to take a razor blade and carve her boyfriend’s initials into the baby when he was three-months old.”
Scheer rushed home to his partner to tell him of the news, who willingly welcomed the two boys into the home later that night. Both boys also arrived with a trash bag of belongings.
“For me, someone who had nothing growing up, my kids were going to have everything,” Scheer said. “We went and got them passports after we adopted them and have gone to more countries than you can count. They have attended private schools and worn the best clothes, and I thought I had done everything right, but 11 years ago everything changed.”
Scheer’s husband informed him it was time for the annual toy drive, but Scheer wasn’t interested in providing toys, he wanted to do something more long-lasting and something that would teach his kids about empathy.
“We’ve given our kids everything, but we forgot to teach them the most important thing: empathy,” he said.
After speaking with his local church and several senior officials, Scheer and his family began to put together backpacks that every child could use on their first night in their new home. Each backpack included a pair of new pajamas, a toiletry set complete with shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion; a new toothbrush and toothpaste; a color book or journal; a book and a stuffed animal. Last, but not least, Scheer was encouraged by his son to include a blanket in every case.
Scheer at first did not understand why his son would want to put a blanket in the backpack, informing him the kids were not cold. However, Scheer’s son told him that every time kids wrapped up in that blanket, they would know they were loved by someone. Scheer’s son’s words stuck with him, as he now ensures every child gets a blanket and most importantly a duffle bag, so no child ever has to use a trash bag again.
“Because of Amerigroup and communities like yours, we have now packed over 220,000 cases and delivered them to all 50 states, including D.C. and Puerto Rico,” Scheer said.
Scheer explained that last year while working with Amerigroup Georgia Director of Foster Care Bhavini Solanki, she expressed a wish to make Georgia the first state where every child has a Comfort Case when they enter foster care.
Scheer admitted he thought the idea was crazy, as Georgia sees between 500-700 children in foster care a month.
However, Thursday marked one year, and now with funding, Amerigroup and Scheer have began working toward Solanki’s goal.
Scheer was amazed with the amount of love people have shown for the packing parties and the vision he and Solanki have. He explained that packing parties can take place at any time though, regardless of his and Solanki’s presence and will be necessary as long as children are in and out of foster care.