TWU students offer dignity to foster children

Two students decorate duffel bags for foster children

April 1, 2024 – DENTON – Of the more than 200 student organizations at Texas Woman's University, there is one for which no one wants to qualify. But no group on campus has more ardent or invested members.

The organization is Fostering the Future, and it's for students who have experienced foster care, homelessness or adoption.

Motivated by their own experiences, Fostering the Future members chose for their Spring 2024 activity to help children ages 5-12 in Denton County in the foster system. On March 28, TWU students gathered at the performance lounge on the first floor of the Student Union for Dazzle the Duffel.

"They want it to go back to kids who are in care, because one of the things that we know is that there's all these experiences of going into foster care, which are dehumanizing," said Amy O'Keefe, executive director of TWU's Campus Alliance for Resource Education (CARE).

Children frequently journey into and through the foster-care system carrying their worldly goods in a garbage bag.

"It's already a traumatic experience," O'Keefe said. "Then to have your things just dumped in a bag as if you and your stuff are garbage. It's horrible."

To address that, Fostering the Future purchased and decorated duffel bags to give a little dignity to children.

"To even be able to have ownership of something is very limited for this population," said Megan Alvina, student services program advisor and case manager and Frontiers advisor. "So to be able to have something that is theirs, no matter where you happen to be, is a big thing. That's why Fostering the Future is really excited to put this together.

The blue duffels have a side panel that TWU students decorated with stencil kits, stickers of dinosaurs, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, rainbows, spaceships, and oil pastels pencils. Included in the duffels are a teddy bear, a blanket, a hygiene kit with a toothbrush and brushing timer, and a coloring book and crayons.

Fostering the Future is under the auspices of TWU's Frontiers Program, which supports TWU students who experienced foster care or adoption. Frontiers is part of CARE, which helps students from a variety of backgrounds overcome the obstacles of attending college.

Dazzle the Duffel was done in coordination with the Child Abuse Prevention Society, made up of students who are social work majors.

"There's a natural affinity between these two groups," O'Keefe said. "I think it's really cool that they're doing this project together."

"The reason we have student organizations like this is just for that peer experience," O'Keefe said. "For someone who kind of gets it and that can understand that what some of the challenges are and also what's kind of what you might need and want to do and have a common interest. So this group, Fostering the Future, decided they had all kinds of ideas of things they wanted to do, but the one they settled on was doing this project. It's all about giving back. That's the heart of this whole story. And I think for students who've been in care to want to do something to help someone else that they'll never meet, who's currently in foster care, I just think it's so lovely.”

The duffels will be donated to Denton County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), then will be distributed to children in need.

"There are these gaps in the child welfare system where there would be some kind of investigation, it would go to court,” Malvina said. "No one's speaking on behalf of the child, integrating all of these perspectives. So CASA volunteers get to know the child and get to know all of the players in the situation and then try to have a coordinated approach. They're really in the role of guardian ad litem for the child. And so it's an organization that engages with a lot of volunteers."

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Page last updated 9:43 AM, April 1, 2024