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The incredible story you didn't hear about the gay dads featured in American Girl magazine.

More than 10,000 comfort packs later, Rob Scheer continues fighting for foster kids.

The incredible story you didn't hear about the gay dads featured in American Girl magazine.
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You may have heard about Amaya, the 11-year-old girl with two dads who was featured in American Girl magazine.

And you may have heard about the backlash that came in response to Amaya's article.

But what you may not have heard about is the most important part of all: the work Amaya, along with the rest of her family, is doing to help the estimated 400,000 U.S. children currently living in the foster care system.



11-year-old Amaya is involved in the Comfort Cases cause. Photo by Joyce Smith.

The whole story stars with Amaya's father, Rob Scheer.

When he was 10 years old, Rob lost both of his parents and entered the foster care system. At 17, he became homeless. Without family and without permanent shelter, he made do by sleeping in cars or restaurant bathrooms before eventually joining the military. All the while, he carried his belongings in a garbage bag, standard practice for foster kids.


Things eventually worked out for Rob, and now he's paying it forward. Photo by Joyce Smith.

More than three decades later, Rob found himself confronted once again by those same garbage bags.

He went on to become a successful businessman; along the way, he fell in love with a man named Reece. Eventually, the two decided to start a family.

More than six years ago, as Rob and Reece began taking steps to adopt a child, the couple received a call from a social worker, asking if they'd be interested in fostering a sister (Amaya) and brother (Makai), ages 4 and 2. They said yes, and the next day, the two children arrived at their home — with garbage bags in tow.

"I believe we need to make a change in how we think about children in foster care. So often, they're thought of as 'problem children,' but they deserve so much more."

Soon after, the couple took in two more foster children — boys Greyson and Tristan. Rob and Reece eventually adopted all four.

Left to right: Greyson, Rob, Makai, Amaya, Reece, and Tristan. Photo by Joyce Smith.

"I want to make sure no child is given a trash bag again," Rob told me by phone.

That was the motivation behind his and Reece's nonprofit, Comfort Cases. The volunteer-fueled group works to compile and distribute care packs for children entering foster care. "Something to call their own," Rob said.

"No other child should ever arrive at a foster home like this," he says. "I believe we need to make a change in how we think about children in foster care. So often, they're thought of as 'problem children,' but they deserve so much more."

Each Comfort Case care pack includes things like a backpack, a set of pajamas, a blanket, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a stuffed animal, and a hairbrush.

A sample Comfort Case. Photo by Joyce Smith.

Since starting in late 2013, Comfort Cases has distributed more than 10,000 packs to foster kids nationwide.

And while that's super helpful to the kids receiving them, the overall goal is to help these children find loving, caring, permanent homes.

"We as a community need to show [these kids] that we care for them and love them," said Rob. "They want what any of us want: to feel that we're loved and being treated like anyone else."

To do that, we need to stop stigmatizing children in the foster care system as somehow broken or less worthy of love.

A huuuuuge pile of Comfort Cases sits in a corner at a recent volunteer event. Photo from Comfort Cases.

November is National Adoption Month, and there's no better time to have a positive influence in a child's life.

Of course, not everyone can adopt or even foster a child. Not everyone has the means to donate to projects like Comfort Cases. What we all can do, however, is share success stories like that of the Scheer family. We can help treat these kids with the love and respect they all deserve.

May every child living without a permanent home find a warm, welcoming, and loving environment like this family. The world would be a better place for it.

Makai, Amaya, Tristan, and Greyson. Photo by Joyce Smith.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

via Gage Skidmore/Flickr and Terry Morgan/Flickr

Senator Ted Cruz and a kangaroo.

Conservative media in the United States has painted Australia as a state on the brink of authoritarianism due to strict COVID-19 protections in some parts of the country. These news outlets appear to be using the country as an example of what can happen in America if liberal politicians go unchecked.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson ran a story on Australia earlier this month claiming the country "looks a lot like China did at the beginning of the pandemic." He ended it by saying that "what's happening in Australia might be instructive to us in the United States" and that things can "change very quickly" and become "dystopian and autocratic."

Carlson provides zero reasons why Americans should be fearful of becoming an autocratic country due to COVID-19, beyond the idea that "things can change very quickly" so his appeals sound a lot more like fear-mongering than genuine concern.

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