Self Organizing - Foster Care Duffel Bags

Self Organizing - Foster Care Duffel Bags

Your family can help a child in foster care by assembling a new duffel bag with basic necessities. Did you know that in the United States approximately 500,000 children are in foster care on any given day? For approximately 125,000 of these children, there is no plan for reunification with their parents and little prospect for adoption. Three out of four children are separated from at least one sibling when placed in foster care. Children often change foster homes. Sometimes they lose all their possessions. Children in foster care are almost always in need of basic necessities, clothing and school supplies and your family can help.


  • To help impoverished youth in foster care with practical necessities
  • To learn about the needs of youth in foster care and to connect with agencies that serve foster families
  • To develop compassion for the people you are serving

Supporting Organizations

  • Local department of children and families, or human and family services

*All items must be new. Make 6-8 duffel bags per participant.

  • Duffel bag
  • Towel, washcloth
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush
  • Shampoo and soap
  • Deodorant for pre-teens and teens
  • Hairbrush, comb, hair ties for girls
  • Fleece blanket
  • Pencils, pens, markers
  • Journals or notebooks
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Small toy or NEW stuffed animal
  • Hats , mittens or scarves
  • Homemade label with gender and age

Alternate Project – Backpacks for Youth in Foster Care
*All items must be new. Make 6-8 backpacks per participant.

  • Backpack
  • Notebooks
  • Pens, pencils
  • Marker
  • Scissors, tape, glue sticks
  • Folders


  • Connect with an agency that serves foster care families. You can call your local social services and ask for a contact and a phone number. Tell them your family would like to make a duffel bag or a backpack for one or more children. Verify they can accept your donation of duffel bags.
  • Talk to your children about foster care. Discuss with your children why you are assembling the duffel bags or backpacks.
  • Assemble the duffel bags or backpacks. Create a label for the duffel bag or backpack noting the gender and age. Fasten it securely to the bag or backpack.
  • Deliver your duffel bags or backpacks to the agency you have chosen.

Additional Resources

Homelessness Fact Sheet for Kids at

Economic Hardship and Poverty Fact Sheet for Kids at

The Star, A Story to Help Young Children Understand Foster Care by Cynthia Lovell
The story is told through the eyes of a young child entering a foster home. It is a book that can be shared with children from ages 4 to 12, to give them an idea of how a young child feels when she is placed in a foster care.
The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Patterson
Gilly has been in foster care for all of her eleven years and dreams of the day she will be reunited with her wonderful mother. Gilly is determined to sabotage her stay with her newest foster family, but instead learns the meaning of "unconditional love."

After you read one of the suggested books or the Fact Sheet for Kidsto your children, and before you do the project, you can use the following questions to talk about the issue of foster care. Discussing the issue is the key to helping your children develop empathy and compassion for the people that will receive your volunteer donation.

  1. What are some of the things parents do for their babies or children that they are unable to do for themselves?
  2. What are possible reasons an adult may not be able to care for his or her children?
  3. Would a baby, child or even teenager be able to live a happy, healthy life without a parent or guardian to provide money, food, clothes, a safe home and loving guidance? What challenges would this young person face without a suitable parent or guardian?
  4. Discuss the meaning of the word “family.” What makes a family?
  5. Can children become part of new families, or do they need to be born into their families? Are some families more “real” than others, or are all families “real” if they provide certain kinds of support?
  6. Foster care is when a household temporarily accepts children into their home to care for as their own, in exchange for pay from the government, because those children do not have families that can take care of them. How do you think foster children may feel each time they arrive at a new foster home?
  7. What could you and your family do to make life a little happier for a foster child?

After your volunteer project, it is important for families to reflect on their experiences. Choose one of the Reflection Activities from the list below.

Magic Wand – This activity uses the concept of a magic wand to help children talk about and reflect on their volunteer experience. Have your family sit in a circle. Tell everyone that you have just found a magic wand that allows you to grant wishes, and pose the questions, “If you could grant a wish to one person, who would it be, and what do you think he or she would wish for?” “How do you think what we did today will make someone feel, and how do you think that is similar to granting a wish?”

Family Pictionary – Have each member of the family take turns drawing something about their volunteer experience and how they felt about it. While each person is drawing, have everyone else try to guess what the picture represents. After each picture is drawn, the artist should talk about the picture and why they chose to draw it.