I love the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving and going all the way to Christmas. Delicious food, quality time with my family, Christmas music, shopping and gifts—I love it all, but what I love most is the extra time with my family. Not everyone is so fortunate, and it is easy for us to forget. Our norm each holiday season is not that of everyone. It is so easy to take for granted.
For many, the holiday season is tainted by a feeling of loss. Some may be going through their first holiday following divorce, or the loss of a loved one. Have you ever thought about how the holiday season is for foster youth? Even with a great foster family caring for them, I would think that the memories of their biological family haunt them extra throughout the holiday season.
Imagine a young girl, having just been removed from her home and placed in a foster home, leaving her familiar environment—no matter what it was—and facing her first Christmas with a new family, in a new home, etc. Change is hard. This scenario, and so many others, is the reality of youth all over the globe. Holidays for them are likely laced in bittersweet emotion ranging from sad to grateful, regret to confusion, and even guilt.
Many times, a foster home is intended to be a very temporary home until their parent is in a better position to care for them. The holiday season may mark yet another year of waiting, another year of hoping, and another year of disappointment and longing to return to what they once knew.
There are so many times for me, on so many different issues, where my head knows the facts, but my heart is a step behind. I have never been a foster youth, but imagine that there is a similar struggle, one of gratefulness in knowing that they were placed in a (better, hopefully) home, versus the feeling of still longing for what they once had. I am certainly not generalizing because, unfortunately, that is not the circumstance for some foster youth, which is an entirely different issue.
Some foster youth find themselves in a new, different home every holiday season. I couldn’t imagine, and my heart breaks. If only I could adopt every foster youth in need of a home, but of course that is not reality. So, what can I do to make some foster child’s holiday season just a little more special? What can you do?
It is my hope that youth, of all backgrounds, are given the opportunity to feel special, feel wanted, and feel equal. To feel that they have something of their own, something permanent. To feel that there is someone rooting for them.
Last year, I learned about the issue of foster youth moving their clothing from home to home in garbage bags—it broke my heart, and, in pure honesty, left me feeling slightly ashamed for never having thought about that at age 40. It is my goal in 2020, as part of the Sassy Suitcase initiative, to donate suitcases (packed with clothing and essentials) to foster youth in need. My personal goal is five suit cases, and I challenge you to consider it as well.
This is just one of many ways to contribute. There are so many other ways to contribute. Perhaps find a scholarship fund, like The Orphan Foundation of America, or participate in its Red Scarf Project. Volunteer locally or donate items in need to an organization in your area. If you have been considering fostering, take the leap and go for it. Remember, it only takes one—one moment of caring, of love, and attention, to make a difference.