Suitcase drive highlights foster children’s plight

Published 10:13 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2018


A Beaufort County social worker is asking for the gift of luggage for the children enrolled in the county’s foster care program.

Foster care/in-home services social worker Alesha Harper and her fellow East Carolina University master’s in social work candidates have embarked on the luggage drive as part of a community service project for one of their classes.

“We are out of luggage for our children here in Beaufort County who are in foster care, so our group project is going to be a luggage drive for children in foster care,” Harper said.

Within the foster system, children are sometimes quickly removed from a home, based on individual circumstances, and need to pack their belongings in a hurry. Often those children don’t have, or have access to, suitcases. Clothes, shoes and other belongings can end up in makeshift bags as the child makes her way to a foster parent’s home, according to Harper.

“They have garbage bags. I know a child I had to move, they had Christmas bags. Anything they can get their hands on because they have to take whatever they have,” Harper said.

Harper said that sometimes the agency is able to go out and buy suitcases or people will donate luggage, but with 89 children currently in Beaufort County’s foster system, supplies do run out. Recently, she realized DSS was in dire need of more luggage when one of her investigations required she remove a little girl from her home and saw how low the agency was running on appropriate containers for children’s belongings, Harper said.

Harper said being able to hand a child being uprooted from her home a suitcase makes the process just a little bit easier.

“The child I went to pick up, we had an old suitcase (for her); she was like, ‘Wait, where did that come from? Is that mine? Do I get to keep it?’” Harper said. “Just any kind of container so they can feel like their items are worth something.”

They are asking for donations of new or gently used suitcases, duffle bags or covered containers for all ages, 0 to 21, though the greatest number of children currently in the system area in the infant to 5-year-old range. Harper said they plan to present them to Beaufort County DSS in early April. Donations can be dropped off at Beaufort County DSS or, if they need to be picked up, Harper can arrange it.

The Luggage for Love drive is already in progress, and is slated to run through March 30, but donations will always be accepted, she said.

“Just because our project ends people can still bring in their donations,” Harper said.

For more information, call Harper at 252-940-6038 or email