The Foster Footlocker program

The Foster Footlocker program launched by Arizona Helping Hands is aimed at giving teens in group foster homes an additional layer of security for their few precious possessions.

Arizona Helping Hands is the largest provider of basic needs for the 15,000 children in foster care throughout the state. At Arizona Helping Hands, we define basic needs as any item that will enhance and improve the lives of children in foster care.  It naturally includes things like clothing, diapers and personal care items.

But it also includes providing these boys and girls with a comfortable bed. To change their nightly routine from fighting over who gets the sofa, or which pile of blankets they sleep in on the floor does so much to lift a child’s sense of self-esteem.  

According to the Arizona Department of Child Safety, there were 1,741 children in Group Home settings as of March 31. These kids are living in a communal environment where people come and go every day. Youngsters in this type of living situation have expressed concerns about the security of their personal belongings.  

You might recall life in a college dormitory, where your favorite candy bar always seemed to disappear, and then extend it to a house filled with younger kids who may not have respect for the personal space of others.

Imagine having a few personal treasures – perhaps the photos of biological family members who you have been separated from, and fearing that your valued possessions might disappear. Then add this fear to the long menu of fears and concerns that children in foster care carry with them daily.

Arizona Helping Hands has taken action to add a sense of security for children in foster care.  We now supply footlockers, together with a padlock. We call this program our Foster Footlockers. Something as simple as a place to secure your stuff can be so important for those 1,741 boys and girls.

One youngster wrote, “I love my footlocker. I feel so much more secure about my stuff now. I have locked up my favorite sneakers that were purchased from money I earned at my fast food job. I also love that I can lock up my paystubs. This is my information, and now I know that prying eyes will not see them.”

We take for granted the simple things in life, the basic needs that we don’t give a second thought to. For children in foster care whose lives have been upended and disrupted, things like a bed, a new backpack or the security of your stuff is much more than a basic need.  

We are so happy that the support of our donors and volunteers allow us to brighten the lives of kids who too often live in a dark existence. We are delighted to ease insecurities of teens in foster care.  

-Dan Shufelt is the president/CEO of Arizona Helping Hands. Reach him at azhelpinghands.org or dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org.

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