This holiday season is coming to an end. We have made it through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas with Kwanza just beginning and New Year’s around the corner. This is a season of thankfulness and giving. It’s a season of reflection and casting a vision for the upcoming year. This is also a season that can be difficult for those who are without loved ones.
I have been connected to the foster care system in some way for many years. I have seen firsthand how children are affected by the traumatic events that surround them entering into the system. I have seen how difficult it can be. I was so blessed to be connected to my son in his infancy, so he didn't have to go through what many children across this country experience. He got to start his journey in love and everyday he gets to walk in that.
I came across an organization called iFoster. Their mission is simple, “to ensure that every child growing up outside of their biological home has the resources and opportunities they need to become successful, independent adults.” That is the goal. My journey to help Joshua reach that goal may be a little easier since my heart is the only home he will know. I will be there to support him and ensure he has access to all of the resources needed for his success. But for many children, that is not the case. This same organization lists some heavy truths on their site as well. A few that stick out to me are:
There are approximately 424,000 foster youths nationwide.
The median age for children in foster care is 6 ½ years old.
20,000 youth age out of the foster care system between ages 18-21 annually.
For children in foster care, the government invests less than 50% of what it takes to raise a child.
What does all of this mean? It means that in this beautifully celebrated time of year, there is an exorbitant number of children in a home that isn’t their biological family. It means that children at a very young age, an age that is so impressionable as it is, have had the traumatic experience of being taken away from their parents. It means that a significant number of young adults are thrown into the world without having the love and support of a family. It means that many children are not getting the support they need to be successful in their independence.
Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “Ok Deb, that’s a lot to take in but what can I do about any of it?” Well, I am glad you asked. If you can show up then do it. Your presence can make a difference in the lives of these children. Find an organization that is near you and see how you can support and volunteer. I’m a volunteer with CASA of Atlanta and that allows me to advocate for a child’s best interest in court. One of my closest friends, Dr. Bonita Carr, is the Executive Director at CASA of Cook County, IL and she would be a great resource for those looking to contribute to the local efforts there. You can check online for ways to get involved with a local chapter near you. If you don't have the time to give but you have some additional resources, then give. Donations can go a long way in making sure these children have access to the things they need to be successful. If you have space, in your heart and in your home, think about fostering a child. The foster care system is always looking for more quality people who can help these children. Who knows, your home may be the forever home that a child is looking for.
As you reflect on this year and look ahead to the next, don’t forget about those who may need a little extra love this time of year.
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai
P.S. Be on the lookout for The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (@DTFA) on Twitter on December 30 as they share some of my story with #FosterCareAdoption. We want to help people understand that the path to adoption doesn’t have to be an expensive one.
Deb + Josh