TRAVERSE CITY — One backpack contained some snacks, a towel, a toothbrush, a stuffed animal, some shampoo and clothing that didn’t really fit.
That was all Angela Adams’ first foster child arrived with shortly after she obtaining her license from Child and Family Services of Northwest Michigan.
“They came with nothing other than what Child and Family Services gave to them in a backpack,” Adams said.
Four years later, Adams now fosters four children at her house in Fife Lake. Their names are Aaron, Zayden, Robbie and Kali. Three children Adams has legal guardianship with, one is adopted.
“They have a home, they call me ‘Mom.’ They do have contact with their mom — but I’m their mom,” Adams said. “I think the big thing is stability. They know that they always have a home. They don’t have to jump from home from home to try and survive.”
But the now-high school aged children want to do sports and go to summer camps. Equipment for scholastic sports can get pricey on top of participation fees and other related costs. Then comes the teenage rites of passage like prom dresses and tuxedo rentals.
“You might be able to do it for one child but yet you can’t for the other child because you can’t afford it,” Adams said.
That’s why, 32 years ago, CFS began its Brown Bag Campaign to raise money to eliminate such financial strains on foster parents.
CFS Executive Director Gina Aranki said children often come into foster care with their belongings tossed into a brown paper or plastic bag before being they head into a new, safer life.
The brown bag inserted in Sunday’s edition of the Record-Eagle is meant to serve as a reminder of that.
Once children come into the system under care of CFS and partners like the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, officials work to make sure children have suitcases rather than bags. In instances of abuse and neglect, however, things may move quicker.
The brown bag serves as a mailer for donations. To donate online visit cfsnwmi.org/brown bag. In 2020 CFS raised $13,000 amid the pandemic for a total of more than $550,000 since the campaign began in 1989.
“Unlike a lot of organizations we really do try to go that extra mile — and yet at the same time, we feel like it’s not an extra mile,” said Aranki.
“These are things that every child should have access to. And we feel like these are super important for the development in terms of them learning how to learning to understand what they like, what their aptitudes are, and to just, have healthy youthful activities for them to help them develop.”