Duffels of Dignity helps foster kids adjust to new environments

Thousands of kids in foster care are moved from place to place at a moment's notice with only a trash bag to carry their clothes. 

Duffels of Dignity helps children being put in foster care adjust to their new environment.

"We have 3,000 children in foster care," said Craig Jewesak, Duffels of Dignity Program Coordinator. "And many times when a child is removed from the home because of trauma, there's domestic violence, abuse, sometimes drug abuse." 

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Alicia Wlodynski has been a foster parent for three years and understands the situation all too well.

"A kid comes in with nothing, and they're in a new place that they're not familiar with," said Wlodynski. "They're not familiar with your home or the neighborhood you're in. And for them to have nothing that even belongs to them is really hard for them to adjust." 

Kids in foster care have to get used to new environments.

Kids in foster care have to get used to new environments.

That's why Hillsborough County Children's Services started a program called Duffels of Dignity.

"We are collecting are duffel bags, suitcases, new and sometimes very gently used, and also personal care and comfort items. And what we do is we deliver these to our foster care community," Jewesak said. 

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Janet Rinaldi is the Director of Family Advocacy for West Florida Foster Care Services. She says the items make a big difference in finding homes for foster children.

"These duffel bags, not only do they give the child a sense of belonging having something of their own, they have that dignity, that they have all of their things in a bag that's just for them," said Rinaldi. "But also it gives the foster parents the ability to say, yes, yes, we can take you, because we know that you'll be provided everything that you need." 

Hillsborough County Children's Services started the program.

Hillsborough County Children's Services started the program.

They hope the convenience will encourage others to take in children when they need a loving home. 

"If they have something that belongs to them that they're proud to carry and proud to hold. It definitely makes a difference for the kid and for the family to make them feel comfortable in their home," Wlodynski said. 

The program is helping to change the life path of so many children in Hillsborough County. The agency has collected 1,000 suitcases and duffel bags in 10 months. 

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