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