Aging-Out of Foster Care with A Suitcase and A Dream


ATLANTA, GA (Ivanhoe Newswire) — In the United States, foster care serves as a critical safety net for children who have experienced neglect, abuse, or the absence of a stable family environment. While the system aims to provide care and support, at age 18, that all ends when they age out of the foster care system. This year alone, 20 thousand young women and men will be forced out of foster care. One young woman who “aged out” is helping others transition one suitcase at a time.

“We were homeless. We lived in empty houses, we put our food literally, I remember putting our food, milk, eggs, and cheese in the snow. That was our refrigerator,” says Brittney Sherell, founder of A Suitcase and a Dream.

Brittney Sherell, along with her twin sister, and two other siblings, went into foster care when she was ten years old, carrying everything she owned in a trash bag.

“I remember a foster parent being able to pick up the phone and say that I can’t be here anymore. I remember feeling lonely. I remember being angry and, and, and cutting my wrists and remember wanting to die,” spoke Sherell.

Brittney lived in seven foster homes and one group home. When she aged out, she followed a childhood dream to move from Michigan to Atlanta.

“I came here with literally a suitcase and dreams of living here,” said Sherell.

But that suitcase carried so much more than a few clothes.

“In my suitcase, I carried neglect, I carried abandonment, rape, I carried so much in my suitcase. And the older I got; I realized it was really dragging me,” spoke Sherell.

It’s a struggle so many foster kids face. Only half of foster kids finish high school and just three percent earn a college degree. Up to 36 percent spend time in jail, 20 to 40 percent experience homelessness, and by age 24, only half are employed.

“I had to steal. I was five or six years old going to the corner store, pushing my younger brother in the stroller, and putting, all types of milk and cereal, just things that we could eat that I can make as a five or six-year-old myself,” said Sherell.

Shaylynn Dixons’ experience in foster care led her to Brittney and A Suitcase and a Dream, a non-profit created by Brittney that helps connect former foster kids with resources and provides them with their own suitcase full of essentials. It was inspired by her book that she hopes will motivate other foster kids to unpack the trauma of their past and write their own future.

“The suitcase is really just a beacon of hope for them as they go through that jo journey from foster to prosper,” shared Dixon.

Now in my suitcase is, it’s healing. Peace, comfort, a sense of feeling safe. Those are things that we’ve put in our suitcases when we learn how to unpack,” spoke Sharell.

Several states have implemented extended foster care programs from 18 to at least 21, and have started life skills training teaching financial literacy, career development, and independent living skills. Organizations like Foster Club and the National Resource Center for Youth Development offer free resources and guidance in this area. You can find out more and learn about ways you can help at You can buy Brittney’s book, A Suitcase and a Dream, on Amazon.


Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Matt Goldschmidt Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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