A Case for Character

What if every foster child were given a brand-new suitcase instead of a trash bag? And what if it provided character-building materials, too

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

One of our board members came to us with an article about foster children and a particular need. Heartbroken and deeply moved by the article, he asked if there was anything Forever Kids could do for the children. We learned that in our country alone, there are nearly 440,000 children in the foster care system. When many of these children are transferred to another home, which is often, they are given a small trash bag to pack their belongings in. They can only take what fits in that bag.



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Beginning in Southern California, we have already begun expanding to other states nationwide.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are approximately 440,000 foster kids and youth in the US and every day thousands are being moved from their homes into strangers' homes. A foster child may move as many as 15 to 20 times (or more!) before they "age out" of the system. When they move they are given a small trash bag to pack all of their belongings. Only what fits in the bag can be taken. Children have to choose between toys or clothes. Many things have to be left behind.

Forever Kids recognized a need and launched A Case for Character. A Case for Character provides foster kids and youth a brand-new roller suitcase to replace the trash bags. A suitcase gives them dignity in difficult transitions and as one social worker said, "It gives them a 'home'!" In every suitcase we place a character-building book and music CD to help them develop inner qualities that will ensure a more successful future--thus "A Case for Character." Most people are unaware of the tragedy of the trash bags and we are helping to raise awareness in local communities to reach out in a tangible way to show love and care for foster children. Most people also cannot become a foster parent, but everyone can help to make the multiple moves a little easier with this gift. 

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

While A Case for Character has many ways for others to get involved, the most prominent for "hands-on" involvement is CFC Champions. When a person has a strong passion to personally get involved with replacing trash bags, they can join Champions to help foster youth in a community, city, or area. Champions take on initiating fundraisers, campaigns, or projects to help raise funds to provide ten to hundreds of foster children with suitcases. Champions can choose from their local foster communities or from groups that we locate ourselves, and in doing so take on ownership in providing for the specific group of children. For example, one couple took on a foster home in their community, raised funds, then held a pizza party for the children.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Due to the efforts to protect foster children's privacy and the length of our existence, the impact results have come mainly from personal responses from social workers, personnel from agencies and camps, ministers, and school district officials. The overwhelming response has been that we have given dignity, hope, and a "home" to foster kids. Many times we receive feedback from the foster kids at events where each child is personally given a suitcase. Their response is always "This is for me? I get to keep it?" Last year suitcases were provided for hundreds of foster youth at graduation ceremonies for "going away to college", Foster Family Feasts, Christmas events, group home parties, and other events. Not only are foster kids impacted, communities and community leaders benefit as they make a difference in their communities. From So. Calif we are beginning to spread across the nation.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have developed partnerships with corporations, individuals, churches, and businesses to support and maintain the infrastructure of the organization. Currently we have five programs that establish these partnerships: CFC Champions, CFC Sponsors, CFC Partners, Medallion Partners, and Team 900. Each program is unique in their partnership features and provides opportunities for anyone and everyone who has interest in supporting the cause.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

While not many people know the plight of foster children and their trash bags, there are a number of organizations that address this issue or the issue of foster children lacking many personal items to call their own. A Case for Character differs from many organizations by providing brand-new suitcases rather than collected hand-me-downs, and our suitcases also provide equality in that every case is the same. The biggest difference is our implementation of character-building. Every suitcase includes an age-appropriate character-building book and music CD produced by our award-winning team.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

A Case for Character's encouragement of good character comes from the standpoint that character is what will define who you are as a person throughout life and that it should be taught to future generations in childhood. The emotional quotient has proven to be as important as the intelligence quotient when it comes to developing social and leadership skills. Having good character will help children learn to not only have a sense of self-worth, but also a sense of awareness of others and their worth or needs. They will have the skills to meet the challenges of the future and work in harmony.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Twitter
  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Melanie Gilbert of the "I Am SOMEBODY" foster care awareness campaign contacted us through Twitter after we connected, and she shared with us about the ChangeMakers Challenge.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE

I think this is a vital project. And I'm so glad that you're out there!

In terms of refining your proposal, I might suggest a couple things. Some actual quotes (rather than just the paraphrases, which are great) from adults or kids involved would add more weight to the impact portion. And a little more transparency about what "the character-building book and cd" are like, or some examples from them, would also clarify your approach and potential impact a bit.

Good luck!