Serenity Packs kept in Boerne Police units for kids separated from parents at crime scenes

Young philanthropist expanding his nonprofit, teaming up with law enforcement and state child welfare organization

BOERNE, Texas – Law enforcement responds to calls every day where children have to be separated from parents or guardians. It could be domestic violence or drug calls, emergency CPS removals, or even DWI crashes.

While officers investigate, children at the scene are isolated and terrified.

So a young philanthropist, a local police department, and a state organization have teamed up to offer comfort to those children.

“The officers will be of course the first person there and we try to remove the kids as soon as possible so we can separate everybody,” said Boerne Police Officer Rebecca Foley.

“The children are sitting in the back of a police car, with nothing to do, lights are on, they see their parents taken away, it’s a traumatic experience,” said Tim Allen, the president of the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards, which keeps track of children in state care and finds ways to fill gaps.

Allen works often with Hunter Beaton, who started the nonprofit Day 1 Bags when he was just 15 years old, after finding out foster children often carried around their belongings in trash bags.

Beaton partners with a bag distributer to donate bags, often excess military backpacks and duffels, to foster kids all over the state.

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“It’s supposed to offer a little bit of a less traumatic experience,” Beaton said.

Now, some of those bags are being repurposed into A Serenity Activity Pack, or ASAP. For the pilot program, the ASAP bags are being kept in the back of Boerne Police patrol vehicles, filled with items to calm kids in crisis.

Serenity Packs kept in Boerne Police units for kids separated from parents at crime scenes. (Boerne Police)

“We put a blanket, we put a small toy, age appropriate activities,” Allen said.

“I have these teddy bears, these trinkets, these little toys that I can hand out to these children and say, ‘Hey it’s safe,’ making sure we build that trust with them,” Officer Foley explained.

Officer Foley helped roll out the program just last month, and said it’s already been successful, thanks to some dedicated community involvement.

“Our job is really to give the bags but other organizations have heard about what we’re doing and they want to help,” Beaton said.

Nonprofits and community members of all ages have stepped up to run donation drives for items to place in the ASAP bags.

Each item is a symbol to children in crisis that they are acknowledged, supported, and loved.

This is a brand new endeavor, but it’s already caught the attention of other communities who are ready to partner with Day 1 Bags to support the children in their towns and counties.

Anyone interested in helping can visit the Day 1 Bags website.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.