A personal message from the author:

I wrote this book not just to shine a light on the broken child welfare system in our Nation, but to begin a movement. This book is a secret that I kept for over 20 years, thinking my silence was saving others.

After spending time working with Criminal Defendants, it became increasingly clear to me, that I was doing a disservice not only to other foster children, but to myself. I set out to write this book and create a movement in our country to discuss why the child welfare system needs to become a critical focus of change if we are every going to try and understand the social issues in our country.

It is time we understand Childhood Trauma and how it changes the way our brains think, and why resolving to heal childhood adversity and build resilience is the only way we can truly heal our nation.

I hope you enjoy this book, and remember that although this is my story, in our nation nearly 500,000 children are experiencing this (and much worse). Don’t we owe them better?

— Shenandoah Chefalo

Shenandoah Chefalo is on a wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood with neglectful, drug-and alcohol addicted parents. She endures numerous moves in the middle of the night with just minutes to pack, multiple changes in schools, hunger, cruelty, and loneliness. Finally at the age of 13, Shen had had enough. After being abandoned by her mother for months at her grandmother’s retirement community, she asks to be put into foster care. Surely she would fare better at a stable home than living with her mother?

It turns out that it was not the storybook ending she had hoped for. 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 many adversities, Shen became part of the 3% of all foster care children who get into college, and the 1% who graduate. Despite her numerous achievements in life though, 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 over- come her desolate childhood, but it also presents grass-root solutions on how to revamp the broken foster care system.

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