Montana DPHHS receives duffle bags for foster youth

Posted at 6:52 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 20:52:59-04

HELENA – The General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Montana (GFWCM) donated 20 duffle bags filled with basic necessities on October 19 to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to benefit foster youth who age out of care.

During the next two years the GFWCM aims to donated at least 200 of the duffle bags to Child and Family Services Division.

The bags contain many useful items such as a blanket, dental supplies, a water bottle and more.

GFWCM President Joyce DeCunzo spent the first decade of her career in child and family services and recognizes how important it is to those in foster care to have something that they can call their own.

“Broke my heart when I would have to move children and they had plastic bags to move their things if they had items,” said DeCunzo, “And that was also often true that they simply had no items to go from one place to another.”

DeCunzo said each bag costs around $40 and GFWCM was fortunate to be able to personally give the first bag to a young women during their statewide meeting in Butte on October 5-6.

Deputy Director of DPHHS Laura Smith oversees the departments child welfare programs and said the donation represents something the department has really been focused on.

“Supporting families and keeping children safe is a responsibility of the whole community,” said Smith. “What’s really wonderful about this is it represents that partnership between the department and community entities to serve children who are at risk.”

Smith said right now DPHHS is seeing the impact of drug use on Montana youth.

“Out of approximately 3,900 children who the child welfare system assists in one way or another, about 69 percent of those cases involve drug use and about 67 percent of those involve methamphetamine,” noted Smith.

According to DPHHS, about 70 youth age out of the foster care system in Montana during the last fiscal year.

“One of the thing we really think about as a department is how do we support these youths as they transition to adulthood so that they can pursue their goals and their interests successfully,” said Smith,“This donation is a really strong compliment to the Chafee Program we have at the department.”

The Chafee Program through DPHHS is intended to help Montana foster youth get the life skills needed to make a successful transition into adulthood. The program assists with obtaining a graduation equivalency degree, high school diploma, life skills and obtaining employment.

Smith added she hopes these duffle bags are the first of many partnerships between DPHHS and the community to helping ensure families can be strong and kids stay safe.

For more information about Child and Family Services in Montana visit here.

Anyone wishing to donate to the duffle bag project is encouraged to contact DeCunzo at 406-439-0076 or email at

For more information about the GFWCM go to

For more information about the Chaffee Program click here.