My Life Is in Bags

Someone knocks on your front door. You hear a discussion that you don’t understand. Then a stranger walks into your room with a friendly but tense smile. They reassure you that you are safe but that it is time to leave. You quickly grab your favorite stuffed animal while they put a few items of clothing into a bag.


Photo Credit: JB London via Compfight cc

Your world begins to close in and everything that used to be normal, regardless of how messed up it was, now has changed. You are sleeping in a strange home with different rules and expectations. You don’t know if you will ever see your toys, clothes, or even your family again.

A few days later, some more of your clothes and toys do show up—again, in more bags.

You are only eight-years-old. No one would expect you to understand what is happening to your world. And you don’t.

Before you were like any kid, toys and clothes strewn across your room. But now…now you make sure that you keep your things close to you…in their bags. Because who knows when another knock will come at the door. What if you have to leave quickly again? You want to make sure that what you do have goes with you.

In fact, you do end up moving to another family’s home. The original two bags have now turned into 4-5 containing everything that you own.

You do end up living with this family for a few years, yet you never grow comfortable enough to completely “unpack” all of your belongings. You keep your most prized possessions in their bags just in case you move again.

Even though a couple of families show some interest in adopting you (whatever that means), you are now almost 18 years old. Your foster family begins to discuss with you what you will do after you graduate high school and move on.

Move On? What do they mean move on!

You learn that once you turn 18 you are on your own. At least you got a couple of pieces of luggage now, but you still have to put some of your belongings into bags. And yes, you still have that now very worn stuffed animal.

All of one’s possessions found in bags signifies instability

What do you think when you see a person fumbling with bags of stuff? Most think, “He must be homeless.” We don’t realize that hundreds of children live just like that even though they live in a house with a family.

A child in foster care often live years with their most prized possessions in bags as many move from home to home. These children never develop a sense of stability and belonging.

Then if they age out of the system statistics show that it only gets worse.

Have you ever made the connection that many of the homeless you see on the streets once were in the foster care system? Or how about those in prison? Yes, the majority of the prison population also spent at least some time in the foster care system.

How can we reverse this trend?

The simple answer is to provide stability for kids in foster care.

You can provide stability in some different ways:

  • Foster – Not all families should foster a child. Fostering requires a huge commitment. The last thing a child needs is to move from family to family.
  • Partner closely with a foster family – be an “uncle” or “aunt” to a foster child. Not only does it widen and strengthen the support system for that child, but it also helps the foster family offer a more stable home.
  • Advocate – Walk with a foster child advocating for what is best for them. You can do this formally by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate or informally by being the “approved” adult involved in the child’s life.
  • Mentor – Most foster families will welcome an offer from someone who will spend time with their foster child helping them with their schoolwork.
  • Engage – Learn about the foster care system. Learn about the challenges foster children and foster families face. I promise you that if you do this, ways you can help will surface.

We need to invest in children that come from broken homes while they are still children so that they can heal, know they have value, and learn life skills. Otherwise we will end up investing much more into the homeless epidemic and prison system.

The choice is ours.  I know which one I choose.

Here, let me help you with those bags.

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “My Life Is in Bags

  1. I found this comment interesting, “All of one’s possessions found in bags signifies instability.” Not because there’s anything wrong with it. It’s a completely different perspective from one a friend of mine who lives overseas gave recently. She made the comment that once her kids are out of school, she wants to live like this: It’s interesting how a different spot in life can completely change your perspective. For those who live out of bags all the time moving from one family to another it’s instability. For those who have plenty it represents a freedom from our stuff. I can really see both sides. If I had to pick up and move all the time, having my most prized possessions close and ready to go would mean everything.

    • Great insight. I myself along with my Danielle spent six months with “our possessions in bags” when we lived in Thailand as missionaries. We lived in three different places during those three months. We didn’t view that as a hardship, but a thrill.

      So as you point out well, it is the context from which I speak—living out of bags moving from one family to another that’s unstable.

      Thank you!