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Monday, March 22, 2021

Children in Foster Care

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Local organization makes $1 million impact

Child victims of crime and negligence need love, support and personal belongings. Local non-profit Geaux 4 Kids Inc. provides just that with a “Geaux Bag” for children in crisis within the first 24 hours they are placed in foster care. A Geaux Bag is full of new, age-specific, right-sized necessities and clothing for infants to teens.

On March 17, the organization reached a milestone, filling the 10,000th Geaux Bag – a $1 million direct impact on vulnerable children in Louisiana. State Advisory Board Member Kelly Orgeron was on hand along with many other volunteers, law enforcement and community leaders to fill that special bag. “Any way we can help the children. Give them a new start. Let them know that there are other people who love them,” she said.

Geaux 4 Kids and Project Geaux Bags partner closely with law enforcement to help these kids. Lt. Barry Spinney of the Louisiana State Police sees firsthand the impact of Geaux Bags when a child is rescued. “It helps transition these kids that are in these environments that are not healthy for them, that are not good for them. Once they’ve been taken out, they have nothing, literally, but the shirt on their back. So, we give them these Geaux Bags that have water, that have toiletries, that have blankets, that have some essentials just to make them feel like a person again. Just to get them out of that environment and transition them into a place where they feel a little bit safer,” he said.

Having immediate necessities available for the child allows the foster parent to focus on their emotional well-being. All Geaux Bags contents are new and include a hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, pajamas, pack of underwear, pillow, snack, comfort items and a note of encouragement from another child. Each Geaux Bag costs approximately $100.

According to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), over 7,000 children were served in the foster care system during the year.

Geaux 4 Kids Inc. was founded in 2013 by Executive Director K.C. Kilpatrick, who as a foster parent discovered exactly how stressful the initial 24-48 hours of receiving children into foster care was and how impossible it was to prepare for it adequately. “They are just children. They are completely innocent, but the situation is a complicated one that adults have to fix. As a community, we can help define a new experience of being rescued into the protective custody of foster care.”

Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator is a vocal advocate for Project Geaux Bags and lets the organization use the old work-release facility to hold “Give Back Geaux Pack” volunteer service events where the Geaux Bags are filled and loaded on trucks for delivery to the eight regional DCFS offices. When contacted by first responders, social workers take a Geaux Bag from the DCFS office to pick up the child and take them to the foster home.

Geaux 4 Kids was able to expand beyond northwest Louisiana into the rest of the state in 2020 thanks to funding from the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. Kilpatrick reaches out to anyone and everyone to make Project Geaux Bags happen. She said on reaching this milestone, “It’s an overwhelming experience to see what the community can do to help children in crisis.”

The organization’s mission is to ease the emergency transition of displaced children into the protective custody of foster care. And that’s just what a Geaux Bag does.

For more information about Geaux 4 Kids, Project Geaux Bags, or how to volunteer or donate, visit www.geauxbags.org.

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