Comfort Cases Distribution in Los Angeles
Comfort Cases aims to eliminate the demoralizing practice of children in foster care transporting their belongings in trash bags. This grant will support the distribution of Comfort Cases (backpacks with age-/gender-appropriate educational and hygiene items along with a stuffy, pajamas and a blanket) to children in foster care in Los Angeles, conveying the message to these children that they are important. Since 2013, Comfort Cases has served 200,000+ children through the distribution of Comfort Cases along with public education and advocacy.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
County of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Expand existing project, program, or initiative
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
Virtually all youth in foster care are indigent. Children in foster care in the U.S. are ethnically and racially diverse: some 44% are White, 23% Black, 21% Hispanic, 8% two or more races and 2% Native American. About 10% have been in the foster care system for more than five years. Approximately 25% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Children in foster care need stability, encouragement, love, acceptance, and support from their families and communities. Most youth entering foster care arrive carrying little more than the clothes on their backs. If they are afforded the opportunity to collect any personal belongings, many are given trash bags in which to carry them. Comfort Cases, Inc. aims to eliminate this demoralizing practice throughout this country, particularly in areas like LA that have a high number of children in care. Having to carry belongings in bags meant for trash has a profound effect on self-esteem and can cause feelings of worthlessness.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
For 10+ years, Comfort Cases has been working to change the foster care system for children entering it at a traumatic and uncertain period in their lives. Comfort Cases include a toothbrush, toothpaste, toiletries, journal book, reading book, brush/comb, pajamas, blanket, and a stuffy (Females 12+ also get sanitary pads). The organization engages in public speaking and advocacy; teaches empathy in schools, PTAs and other groups; and has a podcast to bring greater awareness. Comfort Cases is a community-led organization, with most of its leadership reflecting and representing the experiences and perspectives of the children it serves. The organization responds to requests from partner agencies, including requests from underfunded child-serving agencies, police stations, schools, and foster care agencies. Comfort Cases also distributes Comfort XL duffel bags for children in foster care to transport additional belongings. Agencies that distribute Comfort Cases and Comfort XLs as well as the young people who receive them have provided positive feedback, such as: "Most of our children enter our agency with nothing. Comfort Cases give them a great first-night sleep and even a stuffy to cuddle before bed." - Bonny Garippo at The Heart Matters Foster Family Agency in CA. The organization an active presence in LA and was recently invited to participate in The Hollywood Reporter's inaugural Kids Power Issue and hosted a packing party at Westfield Century City mall.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
According to the Children's Law Center of CA, "Los Angeles County alone has >33,000 foster youth in care who have experienced abuse, neglect or been abandoned." About 10% have been in foster care for >5 years. 25% suffer from PTSD. Circumstances for a child's removal from home include neglect, parent drug abuse, and physical abuse. Of the more than 437,000 children currently in foster care in the U.S., 3 in 10 will finish high school, <3% will go on to graduate from college, and 1 in 5 will wind up homeless after aging out. This grant affords the distribution of 1,300 Comfort Cases ($55 each to produce) in Los Angeles County. We will host one or more "packing parties" where Founder Rob Scheer will provide a motivational and inspiring speech. This engagement from individuals and families in LA County will convey a message of love and support to children in foster care, and it will empower its residents to take part in changing what children experience when entering foster care.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Comfort Cases faces increasing year-round demand for its services and strives to respond to all requests for Comfort Cases and Comfort XL duffels from partner agencies within 24 hours and to fulfill 100% of the requests it receives. The organization keeps detailed records of all partner requests and shipments of items. The outcomes of the program are that children entering foster care are able to feel more secure during their time of crisis, and agencies that distribute Comfort Cases and Comfort XLs provide 100% positive feedback based on their observations during distribution. In 2022, the organization's most impactful year so far, 30,026 Comfort Cases were distributed. Los Angeles received and distributed 150 Comfort Cases (we've got a long way to go!). In 2023, the goals are to distribute 40,000 Comfort Cases and 18,000 Comfort XL duffel bags. More than 200,000 of these items have been distributed since the organization's inception.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 1,300
Indirect Impact: 1,450