CWU News

CWU Makes a Hard Transition a Little Easier for Local Foster Kids

Students holding sweet cases

Putting their educations and hearts to work, Central Washington University social services students are creating special duffle bags, called Sweet Cases, for local children entering foster care. 

Student volunteers will commence decorating 30 Sweet Cases at noon on January 12th near the fourth-floor commons area of Farrell Hall.

This project is especially meaningful for Starlett Burnett, a recent CWU social sciences and psychology minor graduate and former foster child.

“I remember moving and having to shove all of my personal belongings into black garbage bags,” said Burnett of her five years in the foster care system. “It’s good for them (foster children) not to feel like garbage.”

Each year, about 400,000 children are placed in foster care nationally; 30 to 40 here in Kittitas County, according to Jessica Strawn, senior faculty lecturer in the departments of sociology and social services.

When children are removed from their parent or guardian for safety reasons, they leave their home abruptly and with few belongings packed in whatever is handy, often a trash bag.

When entering a new and unfamiliar foster home, something as simple as a new decorated duffle of their own can make the transition that much easier.

CWU students were moved by this knowledge and decided to band together to make a difference.

“The community donated dollars, students give of their time, and children get the benefit,” said Strawn.

The full $750 ask was raised through the online fundraising campaign Together We Rise, with much of the money donated by former foster parents and CWU alumni. The donations went to purchase 30 mid-sized duffle bags, personal items, and fabric markers.

Once decorated, each bag will be filled with a blanket, hygiene kit, and a special stuffed animal. The Sweet Cases will be given to the local Division of Children and Family Services to be distributed to new foster kids in Kittitas County.

Strawn explained that among the project goals is to expose students to their many career options. As important, is to have them apply their energy in the field as soon as possible.

“We’re (CWU) passionate about creating a connection between energy on campus and the need in the community,” Strawn said.

Through their chosen profession as future social services professionals, there will be ample opportunities to help their communities. As is the case for Burnett.

Burnett now works for Triumph Treatment Services in Yakima as a Parent-Child Assistance Program (P-CAP) advocate. She finds herself on the opposite side of the foster care system—assisting women and their families with community resources to address a myriad of issues.

And as for the students working toward their degrees…they are actively putting their energies to work to provide some stability and a smile to local foster children here in Kittitas County.

For information on degrees and certificates in sociology or social services, visit their program web pages.

If you wish to donate to the Sweet Cases fundraising effort or learn about ways to help foster children, contact Jessica Strawn at 509-963-1370 or

Photo credit:  photo of child is courtesy of Together We Rise.

Media contact: Dawn Alford, Public Affairs, 509-963-1484,