Image by Aaron Burden

Garbage Bag Suitcase

Garbage Bag Suitcase is the true story of Shenandoah Chefalo’s wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood with neglectful, drug-and-alcohol addicted parents. She endured numerous moves in the middle of the night with just minutes to pack, multiple changes in schools, hunger, cruelty, and loneliness.

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Finally, at the age of 13, Shen had had enough. After being abandoned by her mother, she asked to be put into foster care. Surely she would fare better at a stable home than living with her mother? It turns out that this was not the storybook ending she had hoped for. With foster parents more interested in the income received by housing a foster child, Shen was once again neglected emotionally. The money she earned working at the local grocery store was taken by her foster parents to “cover her expenses.” When a car accident lands her in the hospital with grave injuries and no one comes to visit her during her three-week stay, she realizes she is truly all alone in the world.

 

Overcoming her many adverse childhood experiences, Shen became part of the 3% of all foster care children who get into college and graduate. She became a successful businesswoman, got married, and had a daughter. Despite her numerous achievements in life she still suffers from the long-term effects of neglect, and the coping skills that she adapted in her childhood are not always productive in her adult life. Garbage Bag Suitcase is not only the inspiring and hair-raising story of one woman’s journey to overcome her desolate childhood but it also presents grass-root solutions on how to revamp the broken foster care system with trauma-informed solutions. 

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