Children are usually brought into the foster care system once a report of abuse or neglect filed with the Department of Social Services has led to a determination that they must be removed from an unsafe home environment. These children face a multitude of difficulties, not the least of which is that they only have a few possessions to take with them, items which are generally placed in trash bags.
The non-profit organization, the Blue Ribbon Project, has teamed up with the Department of Social Services Child Advocacy Center to ease these children's transition into their foster homes. “Backpacks of Love” distributes backpacks filled with essential gender- and age-specific items to social services, for later distribution to each child who is placed into the foster care system.
Hearing of the Blue Ribbon Project, deputies in St. Mary's County worked to implement the program locally. On September 22, 2016, in Lexington Park, St. Mary’s County Sheriff's Office deputies and employees of Child Protective Services received 75 backpacks to be distributed to newly-determined foster care children. These backpacks have been filled with emergency essentials for children ranging in age from newborn to teenagers.
“It's an honor for me to see how much The Blue Ribbon Project continues to grow. It’s great to see our expansion continue to St. Mary’s County and it's a wonderful feeling to be a part of these communities,” said Tom "Taylor" Pyles, Founder, The Blue Ribbon Project.
A spokesperson for CPS commented, “We are grateful this program has been started in St. Mary’s County. Having these backpacks and the necessities they contain will help make the transition easier. Not only do these backpacks provide supplies for the children, they will also be great resources for the foster parents.”
Sheriff Tim Cameron added, “Criminal Investigations detectives are often called to investigate child abuse cases simultaneously with Child Protective Services, and are familiar with the devastation a child goes through when the hard decision is made to remove them from their homes. There is no doubt that these children are most deserving of our care and compassion, and we are grateful that we could add this benefit to the services we render.”
|Front Row (L-R): Sheriff Cameron, Sierra Thomas, Lisa Sheehan. Taylor Pyles|
Back Row (L-R): Lt. E. Sweeney, Major Horne, and Kristi Larson