In Kansas, 7,578 youth are in foster care as of June 2019 according to the Kansas Department for Children and Families and 136 are in Crawford County.
One PSU student, who was previously in the foster care system as a child, is trying to make a difference in the experience some of the children entering the foster care system may have.
Senior in social work Sam Swanson recently donated approximately 52 new duffle bags to TFI Family Services after raising funds to buy the bags.
“I just want them to have something from somebody that’s been there… because that’s pretty rare for them to have that kind of a bag in general and especially letters from someone who’s been there and in the actual system,” Swanson said.
Swanson came up with the idea for donating duffle bags as part of a project for an Advanced Social Work Practice Three class.
“I came up with it because it was the idea of the project was supposed to be something that was close to your heart or something you really cared about….,” Swanson said. “That’s kind of the only thing that resonated with me on a level that I felt like I could do with actual passion.”
Swanson said he chose to donate duffle bags after seeing that many children in the foster care system often don’t have their own luggage and may have no option but to use trash bags to carry their belongings in.
“So, I wanted to make that better for them,” Swanson said. “I wanted them to feel like they have dignity for their belongings…”
Swanson not only donated duffle bags but included a personal letter with each bag telling his story as well as giving positive advice and reminders for the children that received them.
“I put personal letters, because I just felt like a bag by itself wasn’t as personal so I just kind of wanted to make it as personal as I could ….” Swanson said. “I decided a letter would be a better way to go.”
Associate professor in history, philosophy, and social sciences Kristen Humphrey said she was happy when Swanson decided to choose his topic for the project in her class.
“I was really happy for him to choose that, because students get to choose whatever they want, and one of the things that I expect of them is to pick something that they’re really passionate about and they really care about because they’re going to work really hard on it and working hard doesn’t feel so hard when it’s something you really care about,” Humphrey said. “It made sense he did something that was so close to his heart.”
Humphrey said she “loved the letter” he wrote to accompany the bags.
“I think it was actually kind of hard to do, because I think it was really meaningful and so there is a lot of emotions that go along with that,” Humphrey said. “He did a good job talking to other people about it and sharing his experiences which… can be hard for a lot of people to do and share their experiences but I think that’s one of the really valuable pieces for him to let people know what it meant to him personally.”
Although it started as a project for a class, Swanson hopes to be able to continue the duffle bag donations in some way.
“In the beginning it was supposed to be just for the project but now I’m kind of like I got really inspired and I’m hoping it can be continued somehow, I’m not exactly sure how but I would like for it to somehow be bigger than just the 50 bags,” Swanson said.