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Lightening The Load Of Foster Care

Help Youths In Foster Care System Have Personal, New Way To Store Their Belongings

Article by Julie Brown Patton

Photography by Provided by My Bag My Story

Originally published in Brentwood Lifestyle

“An aware parent loves all children he or she interacts with—for you are a caretaker for those moments in time," says Doc Childre, originator of the HeartMath System for enhancing health and well-being. 

When securing back-to-school gear for carrying extra items, it's a great time to consider providing youths in foster care with their own bag. These are local youths who may have no one to shop for them to prepare for the new school year.

Cara Finger’s experience with being adopted herself, and with having adopted two of her own three children, led her to launch the nonprofit My Bag My Story in 2019, an organization that gifts a backpack or duffel bag to children in foster care each time the group sells one of those products.

“When my husband and I became foster parents, I saw children carrying all they possessed in plastic sacks. It steals a child's self-respect when you give them a trash bag for the only things they have in life. Sometimes the only thing kids have control over is their stuff,” recalls Cara.

“Children in foster care often have many issues working against them, due to no fault of their own. Something so small as having their own decent bag can go a long way,” she says.

She adds that she was disappointed by the scarce secondhand luggage donations and limited resources available to foster families, so she collaborated with designers and manufacturers to create products anyone would be proud to carry. 

Since beginning the initiative and teaming up with 21 different agencies in the region and statewide, this Brentwood resident has distributed more than 2,000 bags to Tennessee children in the foster care program.

"Foster children, on average, change homes two to three times a year, which can be an extremely traumatic and disruptive experience. Our project is about promoting self-worth, dignity and a little comfort along the way. Most people don’t realize that children in foster care often travel with nothing more than a trash bag to hold their belongings. We’re here to change that, one bag, and one person at a time," Cara says. 

My Bag My Story offers its bags online and through pop-up or special events, with backpacks $59 each; duffels $79 each and accessory pouches $19 each. Cara indicates when a person buys a backpack or duffel, a second one is given to children entering foster care or moving from one foster care family to another. People can buy bags to donate directly as well.

She often explains that the bags are tangible vehicles for discussing foster care realities, because it is not something people talk about a lot.

My Bag My Story products come in a colorful range of popular hues, including yellow, orange, pink, black gray, purple, camo and navy.

While Cara handles the majority of organizing the group’s efforts, Belmont University students in the school’s Enactus organization help manage inventory and fulfill requests for donated bags, she says. This is an international nonprofit campus organization designed to exercise entrepreneurial skills for charitable causes. Previous Belmont University Enactus students also helped her with filing initial paperwork to become a nonprofit, establishing logistics for retail sales and developing public awareness.  

"There are more than 9,000 children in the foster care system across Tennessee. We partner with local churches, businesses and organizations to try to get our bags into their hands. With the help of our community, partners and generous donors, we hope to donate a thousand bags in this year alone," Cara says. 

She says they recently were enthused about partnering with Williamson County and Wilson County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and to drop off a round of bag donations.

To shop in-person with My Bag My Story in Brentwood, join the group on Sept. 9 at the Foster Closet Fall Market hosted at Holy Family Catholic Church between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be other vendors, along with food trucks, music and door prizes.


“So much can be obtained by kindness provided at the right moments in a child's life,” Cara Finger, founder of My Bag My Story.