BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) – What began as a school project has turned into a campaign for 12-year-old Noah Jones to make sure no foster child in Kentucky is made to feel like they, or their things, are trash.
Noah, of Bowling Green, is home-schooled. About two years ago, he was given an assignment to come up with a project to improve his community. He decided he wanted to collect bags and backpacks for children in foster care so they have something in which to carry their belongings when they are removed from their homes. He called his organization A Case For Dignity. It was started in August 2010.
“I hope that makes them feel happy in a traumatic time and that they feel the love of God,” he said.
Noah’s parents were in the process of becoming foster parents when Noah came up with the idea of collecting bags after learning that many children, when they are pulled out of their birth homes and brought into the foster care system, don’t have anything in which to carry belongings. They are usually given a trash bag.
“It makes me feel like that they think that they and their stuff are trash,” he said.
Noah has collected about 700 bags in May, for a total of close to 3,000 since he began collecting two years ago, according to his mother, Sara Jones.
Noah said it was easy to collect the first bags for his campaign. His first goal was 10 bags, which he collected within a week before raising the goal to 50.
“We just kept raising it and raising it until we got to 500 and then we just kept doing it every year, 500,” he said.
That number should assure that every child who enters foster care in Warren County gets a bag, Noah said.
As of last month, there were about 810 children in foster care in the Two Rivers Service Region, which includes Warren and 16 other counties, said Fonda Walker, social services clinician at the Department for Community Based Services in Warren County.
Noah eventually wants to collect enough bags so one can go to every child in foster care in Kentucky, he said. “If one day we could do that, that would be just amazing,” he said.
On Friday, Noah accepted a donation of more than 300 bags donated by listeners of WDNS radio.
“There are 7,000 children in foster care in Kentucky, so even though we seem like we’ve reached a lot of kids today, we don’t want to give up,” Sara Jones said. “We want to keep gathering bags because our goal, ultimate goal, is that no child in Kentucky gets packed in trash bags.”
Having a backpack or bag of their own can make foster children feel better in a difficult time, she said.
“Not only is it giving them just necessities that they need, it’s also helping them have a sense of ownership, which is pride, which gives them something they’re in control of when everything around them is out of control,” Sara Jones said.
Other members of Noah’s family have become involved in A Case For Dignity as well. His sisters Macy, 11, and Molly, 9, help fill the bags with items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, stuffed animals, coloring books and bibles.
“It feels good to help other people,” Macy said.
Having those necessities on hand means new foster parents can spend quality time getting to know the children who will be living with them instead of rushing out to the store, Noah said.
The Jones’ currently have two foster children in addition to their three biological children, and Noah said he enjoys being a foster sibling.
“It’s fun being able to spend time with them and play with them,” he said.
Walker is the recruitment and certification worker for the Jones family.
Noah was enthusiastic about his family becoming involved in the foster care system from the beginning, she said.
“He was ready to learn about this adventure that his family was getting ready to be a part of,” Walker said.
Foster children are often collected from their homes during chaotic situations or in the middle of the night, making it hard to bring things with them, she said.
“Our workers do the best that they can to gather anything,” Walker said.
The community has embraced the campaign, donating bags and the items used to stuff them, Walker said. Walker distributes bags to social workers who pick up children from their homes.
“It has just blossomed,” she said of the organization.