I’m excited to share an interview with Valerie Howard as my guest post this month. Valerie is the author of many publications for children, teens, and adults. She is the wife of a pastor in Maine, the mother of two active boys, and the owner of two crazy beagles. When she’s not writing, she likes to spend time with family, watch action films, wear flip-flops, and eat chocolate. She has a reader’s website, an author’s website, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter. Her books are available on Amazon.
Can you share a brief synopsis of your new book, Picking Daisy (affiliate link), for us?
Elise is a 50-year-old potter, and a brand new foster mom. Her first placement, a 15-year-old girl named DJ, isn’t planning on getting attached– she’s too concerned with getting away. The unlikely pair grows close throughout their rocky journey together and in the end prove that it’s never too late to find the love of a family.
What gave you the idea for this book?
My husband and I have always talked about adding to our family in the future by adopting or becoming foster parents. I thought it would be a good way to research foster care and my feelings on the topic by writing a novel with foster care as a central theme.
How did you do your research and what did you learn from it?
I knew absolutely nothing about foster care at first, so I had a ton of questions. I posted all of them on Facebook and asked people to tag foster parents or people who grew up in foster care so I could get some real life answers. I watched YouTube videos of kids telling about their experiences with the system. I read testimonials, blogs, and comments on various websites to get a feel for what children who are put into foster care actually go through.
I learned that kids can be placed in foster care for a variety of reasons, none of which is the children’s fault. I learned that children can switch foster families a lot for various reasons as well, and they aren’t even guaranteed to have the same case worker stick with them throughout their stay in foster care. I learned that these children and teenagers are among our society’s most vulnerable people who need our support. I think one of the most shocking things I discovered is the fact that a lot of kids actually carry their things from house to house in a garbage bag. I couldn’t believe that really happens in America, and in my state. That bothered me. It seemed like such a ridiculous, simple thing to fix. Why is it happening?
Is that why you started Take out the Trash Bags?
Yes, definitely. This organization that provides durable, drawstring, cloth laundry bags to children in foster care completely sprung out of the ground of my research for this book. I own two of these bags myself, and I’ve been pretty rough on them– throwing them down the stairs full of laundry, hanging them up and filling them with clothes, dragging them on the floor, etc., and they haven’t shown any wear or tear for at least a year of use. I thought these bags would be perfect to replace all the trash bags these children in foster care are using, and they’re only about $7.00 each. A lot of programs provide bags for children, which is amazing, but they’re about $20-25 each, and they don’t hold as much as these 30”x 40” laundry bags do, so we thought these would give us more “bang for our buck.” For our first fundraiser, we donated 137 bags to two local DHHS offices, and they gave them to 50 kids right away who desperately needed them. I couldn’t believe the incredible response we got, so we filled to become an official nonprofit organization and just got that approved this summer. We’re gearing up for a giant fundraiser to get children in foster care drawstring bags for Christmas, and we’re hoping to eventually expand this operation so that no child in our state of Maine ever has to carry around a garbage bag as luggage again.
To support Take out the Trash Bags, visit www.TakeouttheTrashBags.com or connect with them on Facebook. Right now you can purchase a t-shirt on Bonfire to help raise funds for Take out the Trash Bags.