For those of us who grew up in stable households, it’s hard to imagine the life of a foster child. Constantly moving from home to home, not knowing what the future holds, searching for love and stability, and owning only a few items that you carry with you in a trash bag might sound impossible to fathom. And yet, for more than 400,000 kids in the U.S., this is their reality.
Rob Scheer from Darnestown, Maryland knows first-hand just how hard it is; he entered the foster care system nearly 40 years ago after leaving his abusive home. And it’s the lingering memories of that painful childhood that has led Rob to not only be a foster dad himself, but to go one step further in helping foster kids feel some comfort as they search for their forever home.
“We never say never in our house,” says Rob and his husband Reece, who’ve been married for seven years. “We were told we’d never be married. We were told we’d never be parents.”
And now, they are the proud parents of four beautiful kids. As they shared with Ellen Degeneres just this week on her show, “People say all the time our kids won the lottery. We won the lottery.”
Still, the journey has not been an easy one, as Rob and Reece’s kids come from abusive homes and painful pasts.
“We have a daughter who was hoarding food in her bedroom because she was scared she wasn’t going to eat,” Rob tells Babble. “We have a son who couldn’t talk and couldn’t walk and another child who didn’t know what it was to hug.”
The devoted father also admits that initially, he wasn’t quite ready for all the baggage that each kid brought with them, but he and Reece made it work. “Because that’s what family about,” he explains. “You just make it work.”
And make it work they did. Their first major step was to buy a farm to help their son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome improve developmentally. As Reece explained to Ellen, kids with FAS do better if they’re exposed to animals and fed organic foods. So the couple bought a farm to do just that.
“We were told our son would likely never talk or walk without braces on his legs,” Rob tells Babble. “Now three years later, he’s not only running and walking and laughing, but he’s loving.”
Yet even after all this, Rob and Reece still felt that adopting their own four kids wasn’t enough — they wanted to do more. Rob remembers the day they picked up their kids, who were carrying their items in trash bags, just as he’d done 40 years ago. It was at that moment he said to Reece, “This is unbelievable that 40 years later … these invisible kids … we are making them feel like trash.”
Soon after, Comfort Cases was born.
What began as a small “give-back” project with their kids has now turned into a multi-state organization. Comfort Cases are bags packed with items like brand-new pajamas, a toothbrush, a blanket, and a stuffed animal, as well as items like coloring books and crayons for kids under 10, and a journal and pens for older kids. As their website states, the belief behind Comfort Cases is that: “Every child deserve dignity and comfort. Give the gift of imagination. Everyone needs one essential friend.”
Rob knows that nothing can truly fill the emptiness a foster child feels moving from home to home, searching and hoping for a family to adopt him. But he hopes that having a bag they can call their own with some gifts inside, rather than a trash bag, will help that child see that he or she is not invisible.
The blanket inside, according to Rob, is not because these kids are cold — it’s so the kids can “wrap themselves in up and know we love them and are hugging them.” But the most important item, says Rob, is the book. These kids may feel forgotten and unwanted, but Rob and Reece want them to feel smart and value an education. “We want them to love to read,” Rob shares.
When Reece told Ellen this week that their dream was to take Comfort Cases nationwide, Ellen responded by handing them a $10,000 check from Samsonsite and $40,000 worth of supplies donated by the company. Now these amazing dads are much closer to achieving their dream of helping foster kids in every state.
The Scheer family embodies everything we teach our kids that family is about: Love, support, and acceptance. Rob says his kids “don’t care that we are white or that we are gay. They care that we love them.” And one of their sons certainly echoed this sentiment while talking to Ellen this week, saying through tears, “I am most grateful for having a family that loves me.”
And nothing says “family” more than that.