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Experienced travelers share their 'Why didn't I think of that?' packing essentials

Ziplocs and rubber bands? A Sharpie with duct tape wrapped around it? Here are some less common travel essentials people swear by.

man packing a suitcase

People who travel a lot have some solid insights into what's essential when packing.

As an Amazon Associate, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Have you ever been on vacation and realized you need something you wished you'd brought? Unless you travel frequently, it's inevitable that you'll have some packing regrets, either over things you packed that you didn't need or things you didn't pack that would have come in handy.

Someone who was planning a long trip to Southeast Asia asked in the /travel subreddit, "What do you regret bringing or not bringing when you have travelled? (so I can learn from your mistakes lol)" and experienced travelers delivered a goldmine of wisdom from their personal packing lists.

Here's a roundup of some of the most helpful things to bring along on any trip, and the one thing savvy travlers say not to pack.


A Sharpie with duct tape wrapped around it—yes, really

duct tape and a sharpie pen

Duct tape and a Sharpie may not seem like travel essentials, but they are.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

It sounds strange, I know, but Sharpies are always good to have on hand and so is duct tape. (Fixing a broken strap in a pinch, mending an unexpected tear in a bag, using a tiny bit to keep a chip bag closed, stopping the vent from rattling in the hotel room—so many uses.) No one wants to pack an entire roll of duct tape, though, so wrapping a length of it around the Sharpie gives you a usable amount without taking up any precious packing space.

A Ziploc bag full of Ziploc bags and rubber bands

ziploc bags and rubber bands

Ziplocs and rubber bands = no regrets

Annie Reneau

My family recently traveled to Europe, and on our way out the door, I grabbed a handful of Ziplocs and rubber bands, just in case. I've traveled enough to know I always want a Ziploc for something, and the rubber bands were just a whim because they were within eyesight and they weigh almost nothing.

We ended up using every single Ziploc and rubber band I grabbed during our travels. They're useful for so many things. Opened a packet of nuts or chips and want to save what's left? Ziploc or rubber band. Favorite beaded necklace broke and you need a place to keep the beads together so you can fix it when you get home? Ziploc. Your travel lotion lid suddenly leaks after never leaking before? Ziploc. Want to keep track of whose glass is whose in the place your rented? Rubber bands. Bought a fragile souvenir? Wrap it up in a piece of clothing and put a rubber band around it. So many uses.

Universal adapters and extra long charging cables or an extension cord for devices

woman on couch with extra long charger attached to her phone

Having an extra long phone charger makes a big difference.

Amazon

Along with a universal adapter (a must if traveling internationally—take two in case you lose one), it's a good idea to pack an extra-long charging cord for your devices in case electrical outlets are located in inconvenient places. An extension cord works too, but takes up a bit more space and weight in your luggage.

A waterproof bag (aka dry bag) that can be used for multiple purposes

waterproof dry bag

A dry bag can be used for far more than just water adventures.

Amazon

Not only does a waterproof dry bag handy keeping your stuff protected during water adventures, but it's also how you can keep the wet swimsuit you inevitably end up with from touching the rest of your luggage. It can do double duty as a laundry bag and you can even use it as a makeshift washing machine for a few small items you want to wash—just toss in part of a laundry detergent sheet, some water and your clothes, and shake. (These come in a variety of sizes, so decide which size you'll need.)

Laundry detergent sheets

Insogreen laundry detergent sheets

Laundry detergent sheets make travel washing so much easier.

Amazon

At some point in your travels, someone in your party is going to need to wash something, and it's super helpful to have your own detergent on hand. These laundry detergent sheets look like paper, take up practically no room and weight almost nothing, plus no liquid messes to worry about. Just toss a few into a Ziploc bag and you're good to go.

A clothesline—but not just any clothesline

two travel clotheslines

Hang your swimsuit and handwashed laundry up to dry.

Amazon

Theoretically, you could use any kind of string or cord for a clothesline, but these braided ones are ideal for travel for a few reasons. One, the suction cups make it easy to use in a shower. Two, the clips make it easy to use wrapped around poles or trees. Three, the braided cords eliminate the need for clothes pins because you can just tuck a bit of fabric in between the cords to hang things.

A small container of over-the-counter medications and electrolyte/hydration packets

liquid i.v.

It's easy to get dehydrated when traveling and it's not always easy to find OTC medications.

Amazon

Even if you're not someone who usually takes pain reliever or needs extra hydration, traveling can do weird things to your body, especially when you're visiting another country where everything is unfamiliar. Plus, a lot of over-the-counter medications we're used to may not be easy to find elsewhere, and you definitely don't want to be trying to figure out how to find antidiarrheal medicine when you desperately need it. As for electrolytes, people swear by powdered hydration packets like Liquid I.V. for getting over jet lag quicker, but they're also good to carry especially in places that are hotter than you're used to, where it's easy to get dehydrated.

Thin, compact, reusable grocery sacks

reusable grocery sacks

Thin sacks that pack tightly always come in handy.

Amazon

Specifically, ones like these BeeGreen sacks that fold down super tiny, taking up almost no packing space, come in super handy for shopping, laundry, beach, souvenirs and more.

Leave the extra sweater at home

What do people regret bringing? Too many clothes, across the board.

Sometimes it's a matter of being overly prepared, thinking you might need a sweater while you're in Indonesia, only to be met with the reality that it's always a million degrees and a thousand percent humidity there. Sometimes it's a matter of thinking you need more shoes than you do or that it will be harder to wash things than it is. Sometimes it's realizing that you want to buy the cheap, beautiful clothing you find at your destination but don't have room in your luggage to bring them home.

But pretty much everyone who said they regretting bringing anything said clothes. So pack light on the clothing, heed the "must haves" above, and you'll be golden wherever you end up traveling.

Sandhya with other members at a home meet-up

South Asian women across the country are finding social support in a thriving Facebook group devoted to them.

The Little Brown Diary has over 40,000 members, primarily between the ages of 20 and 40, and 100 subgroups devoted to niche topics. Some of these include mental health, entrepreneurship, career advice, and more.

Members of the group can discuss their experiences as South Asians, inner conflicts they face, and even bond over their favorite hobbies. The Facebook group has become a safe place for many of its members to find support in the most transformative periods of their lives. These include:

  • Supporting women in domestic violence and sexual assault circumstances
  • Sharing mental health and suicide resources
  • Connecting members to support each other through grief and loss
  • Helping members find the strength to get a divorce or defend their decision to be childfree
  • Helping them navigate career changes
  • Helping to find friends in a new city
  • Finding a community of other neurodivergent people in their shoes

“I joined the online community because I was looking for that sense of belonging and connection with others who shared similar experiences and backgrounds,” expressed Sandhya Simhan, one of the group admins.

“At the time, I was pregnant and eager to find other desi moms who could offer support, advice, and friendship during this significant life transition,” she says.

Another group admin, Henna Wadhwa, who works in Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., even uses the group to inspire new areas of research, including a study on ethnic-racial identity at work.

“I was surprised and excited for a group that brought together South Asian/brown women. I wanted to meet other women with similar research interests and who wanted to conduct academic research on South Asian American women,” Wadhwa says.


While social media isn’t always the best place to spend our time, studies show that the sense of community people get from joining online groups can be valuable to our mental health.

“The presence of LBD has allowed so many South Asian women to truly feel safe in their identity. The community we have built encourages each person to authentically and freely be themselves. It is a powerful sight to witness these South Asian women be vulnerable, break barriers, and support each other in their journeys,” says Wadhwa.

Hena and Neesha

According to an article in Psychology Today, a study on college students looked at whether social media could serve as a source of social support in times of stress. Turns out, these students were more likely to turn to their social media network rather than parents or mental health professionals for connection. The anonymity of virtual communities was also seen as appealing to those experiencing depression.

“The social support received in the online group promotes a sense of well-being and was associated with positive relationships and personal growth,” the article states.

This is why finding a community of like-minded individuals online can have such a positive impact in your life.

“There are almost half a million women in our target audience (millennial South Asians in North America) and about 10% of them are part of LBD. It’s been a game-changer for our community. LBD is all about embracing your true self and living your most authentic life. It's amazing to see how the members support, relate, learn, and lift each other,” says Wadhwa and Simhan.

Carl Sagan and a sliced apple

The concept of the fourth dimension seems beyond human comprehension. As three-dimensional beings, we are unable to see beyond a physical object's height, width and depth. What else could there be?

Enter Carl Sagan, revered as one of the greatest science communicators of his time. He possessed a unique gift for demystifying complex scientific concepts, making them accessible and thrilling for the general public. In 1980, on Episode 10 of the groundbreaking PBS show “Cosmos,” Sagan embarked on a mission to explain the seemingly impossible fourth dimension.


What’s excellent about Sagan’s explanation is that he uses simple and relatable objects: an apple and a Tesseract, or a hypercube.

Sagan began by discussing how a two-dimensional being living in a flat world would perceive a three-dimensional object like an apple.

“Imagine we live in this ‘flatland’/2-D plane with no concept of ‘up’ or ‘down.’ Then along comes a 3-D object like an apple. We do not even notice it until it crosses our plane of existence — and even then, we have no idea what the apple is,” Sagan explains. “We see only a fragment as it passes through our plane. There is no way we can comprehend the 3-D quality/dimension of the apple, because it is more than we can understand. We only have the evidence of what has passed through our plane.”

Sagan then related this two-dimensional experience of the third dimension to how we might try to understand the fourth. To do so, he used the Tesseract, a four-dimensional cube, to demonstrate how difficult it is for us to perceive or visualize dimensions beyond our own three. At this point, Sagan is asking the viewer to expand their minds to understand the fourth dimension metaphorically.

Sagan’s demonstration of the fourth dimension isn’t just a wonderful explanation of a scientific idea that many of us find difficult to comprehend; it’s also a great example of how to teach complex ideas by combining clear explanations with thought-provoking visuals.

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Pete Davidson on "Saturday Night Live"

Singer Ariana Grande and "Saturday Night Live" cast member Pete Davidson were dating back in May of 2018.

Neither star had confirmed the relationship outright, but their reps weren't pushing back on reports claiming the two had linked up either. The singer and comedian's playful interactions on Instagram certainly suggested to fans the romance was budding.


While many celebrated the news, it inevitably came with a side of backlash too. Some of the criticism, however, crossed an unfortunate line.

Trolls began pointing to Davidson's history of mental illness to suggest he couldn't be in a healthy relationship.

The comedian felt it necessary to shut that down. Fast.

"Normally, I wouldn't comment on something like this cause like, fuck you," Davidson wrote in a note he shared to his Instagram story. "But [I've] been hearing a lot of 'people with BPD [Borderline Personality Disorder] can't be in relationships' talk. I just wanna let you know that's not true."

Davidson said he was diagnosed with BPD in 2016 after having lived through a "nightmare" year that involved rehab and grappling with the ups and downs of diagnosis. The comedian has also spoken openly about living with depression.

"Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can't be happy and in a relationship," Davidson wrote. "It also doesn't mean that person makes the relationship toxic."

After noting there are many life-changing treatments available for people like him, Davidson emphasized the importance of combating stigmas associated with mental illness.

"I just think it's fucked up to stigmatize people as crazy and say that they are unable to do stuff that anyone can do," he wrote. "It's not their fault and it's the wrong way for people to look at things."

Davidson has been praised by mental health advocates for using his celebrity to humanize his illnesses — and poking fun at himself along the way.

In one "SNL" segment that aired shortly after he went public with his diagnoses, the comedian spoke candidly about his mental illness with "Weekend Update" host Colin Jost.

"If you're in the cast of a late-night comedy show, it might help if they, you know, do more of your comedy sketches," Davidson joked about ways others can help him get through his dark times. "I was born depressed, but it might make me feel better if I was on TV more."

Like many comedians, Davidson often uses brash and cringeworthy lines as a form of therapy to overcome trauma. His father died on 9/11, for instance, and the comedian's folded the devastating loss into his routine with a comedic spin.

Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it certainly can help.

Davidson ended his message on Instagram clarifying why he decided to speak up in the first place.

"I'm simply writing this because I want everyone out there who has an illness to know that it's not true [that you can't be mentally ill and be in a relationship] and that anyone who says that is ill and full of shit," he wrote. "Mental illness is not a joke; it's a real thing."

"For all those struggling I want you to know that I love you and I understand you and it is going to be OK," Davidson concluded. "That's all. Love to everyone else."


This story originally appeared on 05.25.18

Pop Culture

'Britain's Got Talent' contestant blew Simon Cowell away singing a song he 'hates'

Her heartfelt version of "Tomorrow" brought people to tears—and completely changed Simon's tune.

Sydnie Christmas nailed her rendition of "Tomorrow" from "Annie"

Contestants on "Britain's Got Talent" (as well as "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent") have long feared Simon Cowell's judgment, so imagine auditioning with a song choice that automatically brings out his sour side.

That's what contestant Sydnie Christmas did when she chose to sing "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie," which is Simon Cowell's least favorite song. But much to everyone's surprise, she totally blew him away with her beautiful soulful rendition, causing him to change his tune.

Before performing, Christmas bounded onto the stage with her genuine smile and spunky energy, which endeared her to the judges and audience immediately. She even cracked a joke about her middle name being "Mary" (Sydnie Mary Christmas would be quite the name choice) and got everyone laughing with her.


However, when she announced she'd be singing "Tomorrow," Cowell winced and the other judges groaned.

"That is Simon's worst song," warned judge Amanda Holden.

But when Christmas, who works as a receptionist at a gym, began to sing, it soon became clear that this wasn't an ordinary rendition of the musical classic. Soulful, heartfelt, sad but hopeful, she built the song up bit by bit, bringing the audience along with her on an emotional ride.

Watch:

Not only did she get the coveted Golden Buzzer, but she also managed to get Simon Cowell to say he now loves the song he said he'd hated just minutes before. Viewers loved it, too.

"That was the first time I could take this song serious. Before today I hated it, too," wrote one person.

"When they say you have to make the song your own, she did just that. I have never heard a better version," wrote another.

"Absolutely beautiful; love how the word “tomorrow” always sounded unique EVERY TIME! Listened over and over…" added another.

"I've heard that song a million times and she REALLY got the poignancy of it," shared another. "It is a sad song, but a song of hope, and it is hard to walk that line and she KILLED IT. It's not just about her voice, it is how she sold that song."

She even pulled in people from various walks of life, moving them with her performance:

"I'm a 60 year old highway worker. Just got off work and my wife sent this to me. What I'm trying to figure out is who's been cutting onions in my vehicle? Seriously, teared me up. This took me COMPLETELY off guard and I am so delighted to have experienced this diamond!"

"41 year old hip hop head here and never did I think I would be touched like this. The sound of suffering with a glimmer of hope in the sound. Who is cutting onions at this time."

"I’m a 60 year old builder sitting in my van having lunch. I just watched this. The guys in the next van are taking the P coz I’m crying my eyes out! Brilliant!"

As someone named Annie, I've had "Tomorrow" sung to me countless times over the years, so I shared Simon Cowell's initial grimace upon hearing what she was going to sing. But I too was moved by Christmas's performance and gained a whole new appreciation for the song after her gorgeous rendition. Not an easy feat. What a delightful surprise for us all.

Pop Culture

Video shows how Gummy Bears are made in reverse

You’ll never look at a gummy bear the same way again.

Photo by Amit Lahav on Unsplash

Another type go gummy... Gummy Bears.

The first gummy bears were created in the 1920s by Hans Riegel, owner of the Haribo candy company in Bonn, Germany. Since, gummy candies have become popular worldwide and evolved to take the shapes of fish, sour patch kids, frogs, worms, and just about anything a clever candy maker can imagine.

But unlike the popular Disney '80s "Gummi Bears" cartoon, these sweet little guys don't come from a hollow tree in the forest. Sadly, their creation is a bit more terrifying.


In the video below, Belgian filmmaker Alina Kneepkens shows how the colorful snacks you bought at the movie theater actually began as pigskin. Yes, an NFL football and a gummy bear have the same humble beginnings. But if you're a vegan or vegetarian, there's no need to worry; there are candy manufacturers that make gummy bears out of agar and pectin so you can enjoy these fruity delights minus the swine skin.

Now, you know you want to sing along to this tune.

This article originally appeared on 9.3.21

Family

9 things to know about kids in foster care. Plus an unforgettable view into their lives.

Foster care is a nightmare for some kids and their foster parents. For others, it's a blessing.

A clip from "ReMoved Part Two"



Zoe's story, "Removed," has been seen by millions of people.

It was previously shared by my amazing Upworthy colleague Laura Willard. We got just a tiny taste of what it was like for kids in foster care, right after being removed. Specifically, a little girl named Zoe and her little brother Benaiah.

My wife and I, foster parents for the past year, even shared the original with our adoption worker, who passed it along to the entire agency and, then, it took off like wildfire among those people as well.

This is part 2 of that story, and it hits hard.

(Yes, the video's on the long side at about 20 minutes. But it's worth the watch to the end.)

She describes her life as a cycle, interrupted by a tornado. She's a foster child. I don't think I need to say any more.


So ... let's accompany that with 9 uncomfortable — but enlightening — facts below. There are only nine bolded, but within those headers, there are several more facts.

1. There are an estimated 400,000 kids in foster care right now.

Some are awaiting adoption. Some will go back to their parents. Others will age out or, sometimes, run away.

2. Foster kids can suffer from PTSD at almost two times the rate of returning veterans.

And PTSD can mimic a lot of other mental illnesses, and it can manifest as nightmares, flashbacks, fight-or-flee responses, anger outbursts, and hyper-vigilance (being on "red alert" at all times), among other symptoms.

Image via Nathaniel Matanick.


3. The average age of a foster child is 9 years old.

They're just on that edge of childhood, and chances are, it's been a pretty messed up childhood at that. Trauma does that.

4. About half of all foster kids are in non-relative foster homes.

8% are in institutions, 6% are in group homes, and only 4% are in pre-adoptive homes. Read that again — only 4% are in pre-adoptive homes.

5. Some of foster children experience multiple placements. In some cases, eight or more.

That's eight homes that they move into — and out of. And just consider ... that means they lose not just adults and other kids with whom they are establishing a bond, but friends, schoolmates, pets.

Clip via Nathaniel Matanick


6. The average foster child remains in the system for almost two years before being reunited with their biological parents, adopted, aging out, or other outcomes.

8% of them remain in foster care for over five years. Of the 238,000 foster kids who left the system in 2013, about half were reunited with parents or primary caregivers, 21% were adopted, 15% went to live with a relative or other guardian, and 10% were emancipated (aged out).

7. In 2013, more than 23,000 young people aged out of foster care with no permanent family to end up with.

And if you add that up, year after year, hundreds of thousands of foster youth will have aged out of the system. What does that look like? "You're 18. You've got no place to live and no family. Good luck — buh-bye now!" One-quarter of former foster kids experience homelessness within four years of exiting the system.

8. Foster "alumni" (those who have been in foster homes and either adopted, returned to parents, or aged out) are likely to suffer serious mental health consequences.

They are four-five times more likely to be hospitalized for attempting suicide and five-eight times more likely to be hospitalized for serious psychiatric disorders in their teens.

Based on that set of statistics alone, it's in the public's interest (ignoring, for a second, the interests of those kids) to help them through their lot in life and spend resources making it all work much better for everybody before it gets to that point. Right?

So there's a lot to be angry about in this whole messed up situation. But this next thing? My blood boils.

What's one of the biggest risk factors in families whose children are placed in foster care?

Your guess?

Cruelty?

Drugs?

Sexual abuse?

Neglect?

The answer is ...

9. Poverty

Together with homelessness and unemployment, it's a main contributing factor. It happens all the time. The fact that it's far easier for a parent to be accused and investigated for neglect or abuse because of simple things like lack of access to a vehicle, or a working refrigerator, or the ability to get a kid to a doctor's appointment — that has a lot to do with this. Tie that to the link between drug abuse and poverty and between poverty and child abuse ... well, you can see where this is going.

And in a country where one-third of children are living in poverty (hint: the good ol' U.S. of A.), imagine how that affects the number of kids being removed and placed into foster care.

I'll end this with a bit of hope through my story.

My kids went through something a lot like the kids in the clip above before they came to live with us. We've been through the ringer in ways that we're going to have to talk about one day because it's not just that the kids have been challenging — they have — it's that the system itself has been more challenging.

The entire system — from agencies to government entities to social workers to even the schools — seems like it's designed to fail these kids and the families who are attempting to help. It's almost designed not to work. There, I said it.

But that doesn't mean we won't fight to make it better for everybody. We most definitely will.

Image from a photo by my wife, Robin.

As for us, we're just a few weeks away from becoming the legal parents to these kids, and we're extremely happy to be right here, making it happen. And they seem quite happy to be our kids. Along the way, we fell in love with them, and we can't imagine life without them.

But to be totally honest ... if we'd have known how hard it was going to be when we started this journey, and if we could somehow turn back the clock and NOT do it ... well, would we have actually gone forward with the process?

I take that back. I won't be totally honest here. I will simply let you decide.

Here are some places to help, if you're so inclined.

        • AdoptUsKids.org is a place to start if you're considering fostering or adopting.
        • My Stuff Bags is a really cool and inexpensive way to help foster kids by gifting them actual luggage, duffel bags, and more, so that they don't travel from home to home with garbage bags for their belongings — or nothing at all.
        • CASA for Children offers legal help and advocates for foster kids through a network of volunteers.

        This story was written by Brandon Weber and originally appeared on 07.17.15