This Family’s Foster Care Story Will Inspire Your Heart
“Extending a hand to the most vulnerable among us is a privilege.”
Every week in Maria’s publication The Sunday Paper, we honor individuals who are using their voices, their hearts and their minds to Move Humanity Forward.
This week, we honor Rob and Reece Scheer as our Architects of Change of the Week.
Rob and Reece are two amazing fathers who have made it their mission to give foster children a sense of dignity and security. They are the founders of Comfort Cases, a nonprofit that provides children in foster care with suitcases so they can travel more comfortably and more respectably from home to home. The story of their family (which includes foster children of their own), and the story of how they are working to provide comfort and care to foster children everywhere, will motivate you to deepen your definition of what family really means. Rob shared their powerful and inspiring story with us below.
1) Can you share your story of how you and your husband decided to adopt through the foster system?
I always knew I wanted to be a dad. Honestly, being a parent was the most important goal I had. I wanted to be the kind of parent that I never had, but I never wanted anyone to know my story of growing up in the foster care system. In an effort to leave those memories behind me, I told Reece we should focus on adopting overseas. Reece challenged me to think about all the kids in our own backyard that I was letting down by not sharing my story and by not adopting locally. He was right. We went to DC Child and Family Services and said we want to adopt a baby, and they told us it would take two years. Two years?! I could not believe it. The social worker suggested a faster route would be to foster to adopt. After some thoughtful consideration, Reece said, “If we can change the life of a child, even for a short time, we must do that.” And so our journey began.
It was the surprise of a lifetime when we got the call asking if we would take not one baby, but a sister and brother, ages 4 years old and 18 months! It was not what we had initially envisioned and planned for, but Reece and I knew we would never split up two siblings coming into foster care. We accepted the offer to welcome Amaya and Makai into our home without hesitation. I knew what I had lost by entering the system separated from my brothers and sisters, and we would not allow that to happen to any children we were caring for.
2) How has your family grown from there? Do you plan to continue?
Three months after Amaya and Makai arrived in our home, we received a call from DC Child and Family Services about two brothers, 2 years old and 6 months old, who were in need of a foster home. We were delighted to welcome Greyson and Tristan into our home. In three months, we went from no kids to four kids under the age of four… fast track to parenthood!
Reece and I have talked about the possibility of becoming recertified to provide emergency care for foster children. We do not know exactly what the future holds for our family, but we never say never in our family. Our hearts are always open to the possibility that there is a child out there who needs us.
3) What inspired you to start Comfort Cases? What have you accomplished thus far, and how do you hope to grow?
Comfort Cases is the charity that my family founded in October 2013. The concept of Comfort Cases originated from my family and my colleagues brainstorming together about a meaningful holiday project that we could do in our community. As we talked about my experience in the foster care system and the awful trash bags that both myself and my four children used as suitcases, the idea was born to assemble Comfort Cases with specific items that would have made a difference for me and our kids had we received them when entering foster care.
Our mission at Comfort Cases is to provide comfort and dignity to children entering the foster care system and to other at risk youth. We accomplish this goal by packing and distributing overnight bags filled with essential and comfort items to meet the basic needs of these children and to bring some happiness into their lives. We deliver our cases for distribution to social service agencies, private agencies, emergency domestic violence shelters, family shelters, schools, and police departments. Every child deserves the dignity of having something of their very own and knowing that their community cares about them. Our charity provides a way for communities to come together and support the most vulnerable among them.
We pack our Comfort Cases in either backpacks or small duffel bags. The items that we include in our cases are pajamas, a blanket, a stuffed animal, a book, a dental kit, a hygiene kit, and a fun activity (coloring book and crayons, journal with pens/pencils). We pack for children from birth to age 21. We do ask for all items donated to be new to best confer the sense of dignity and worth to children in need.
Our goal at the beginning was to pack a couple hundred cases to deliver to local children in need. Since then we have delivered over 21,000 cases, primarily to children in the DC/MD/VA area. Due to the generosity and support of people across the country and around the world, we have now started shipping our cases to agencies in other states for their foster youth. To date, we have reached foster youth in 18 new states, and we are just getting started!
4) How have your children enriched your lives? What would you say to anyone who wants to foster, but is on the fence?
Adopting our four beautiful children is, without a doubt, the biggest blessing of our lives. I will never forget the day our first two children arrived. They were brought to our house with their entire world packed in tattered trash bags. It immediately brought back such painful memories of carrying my trash bag from place to place as a kid. How could it be that over 30 years later we still had not gotten it right? How were we still asking children to pack up their life in a trash bag? Where is the dignity in that for a child who is scared and vulnerable? It was really in that moment that I realized I had a responsibility to advocate for a more humane experience for children in foster care. It was also in that moment that I knew for certain that your past does not define you. Here I was with these beautiful children in my arms and my husband standing at my side. Despite the odds, I had made choices that brought me to this moment of realizing the dream of becoming a parent, and I had the love in my heart to give them a better life than the one I had grow up in.
There is a dire need for foster parents across this country. If you are already at the point of thinking about fostering, you have room in your heart to love a child in need. Take the leap of faith and do it; you will change a child’s life!
5) What do you think the biggest misconception is about children in foster care?
There is an endless amount of stigma attached to foster children. You look at the statistics about lack of education, early pregnancies, drug use, homelessness, imprisonment, and it is easy to give up on our foster youth, many of whom are trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence. We tend to think of them as troubled and difficult children, and maybe it would be too hard on us and our family to take in a foster child. But there are no bad kids out there; only kids who need to be loved and deserve to know they are wanted. It is our privilege and responsibility to embrace our foster youth as true members of our community and provide them with the love, care, and support they need to make choices that enable them to build a better future.
6) What has been the most surprising part of this journey?
The most surprising part of this journey has been the healing in my own soul through the creation of our amazing family. On my 18th birthday, I arrived home from school to find my belongings in trash bags by the front door of my foster family’s home. The check had stopped coming from the state, and although, I was only in the beginning of my senior year of high school, I became homeless. I was determined from that moment that I would not become a statistic; that I would rise above the cards life had dealt me. And I did that. I worked my way up the ladder in the business world, and I created a safe and stable life for myself. But it has been the love from Reece and our four children, that has healed my heart in a way I had not allowed myself to dream possible.
7) What are your plans for Comfort Cases moving forward? What’s your dream for how you can continue to Move Humanity Forward?
We have established Comfort Cases USA which will be the national organization that will oversee the establishment of Comfort Cases Chapters in all 50 states. With nearly 428,000 youth in foster care in the United States, we are determined to have a presence on the ground in all fifty states to ensure that basic needs are being met for these youth as they enter into care. We are also planning an advocacy arm of our national organization to ensure that we are helping foster youth build the life skills and foundation needed to age out of care and transition into adulthood in a way that allows them to thrive.
Our dream for how to Move Humanity Forward is actually pretty simple. We need to remember that no matter where you live on this planet, we are all part of the same community. If I have a piece of bread and you are hungry, I should give it to you. We are here to serve and help each other, and extending a hand to the most vulnerable among us is a privilege. If we operate on the principles of community, love, and kindness, we will change the lives of our youth for the better.
For more on Comfort Cases, go here.
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