THE FOSTER CARE COMMUNITy
For many people, the holidays are a special time that is filled with decorating, celebrating, giving, and receiving (and maybe eating WAY too many treats along the way!). We associate this season with warm memories, exciting events, extra quality time, and family traditions.
But for children in foster care, this time of year can feel lonely and call attention to their current lack of normalcy. For some children, the holidays may bring back positive memories of time spent with their biological parents and siblings. They are reminded of their family traditions, holiday outings, their home, and special gifts they received. Despite the reasons they ended up in foster care in the first place, the child could still long for this quality time spent with their biological family and feel lonely or worried without them. And celebrating with their foster family could make the child experience feelings of stress, guilt or betrayal.
For other children in care, their memories of the holidays aren’t as fond. Maybe they never received any Christmas presents, and went without any special love or attention. Maybe they experienced something especially traumatic this time last year, that stirs up feelings of anxiety and makes them feel unsafe. Or maybe their biological family simply didn’t celebrate, and the child is unfamiliar and uncomfortable with their new foster family’s traditions.
Foster mom, Sarah (*names have been changed for privacy) said, “I could see Amanda’s face as we decorated the tree with lots of memories from the time I’ve had Ava (foster sibling), but nothing of hers. So I’ve tried to make it special for her since it’s her first Christmas home… I got the kids stockings, and Amanda a few of her own ornaments to give their special place. I think not having any real traditions, and mixed emotions, creates a lot of feelings that are hard for our kids to process.”
This time of year can become more difficult for caregivers as well. Parents are navigating the busy holidays, changes in family schedules, events for school, work and family. Adding in the additional responsibilities that come with fostering, such as case worker visits, meetups with the biological family, court dates, and other mandatory appointments, this time can become overwhelming. In addition, they may have to navigate increases in their child’s challenging behaviors and emotional stress brought about by this time of year, while also sorting through their own emotions. Foster mom, Savannah, says she would struggle with thoughts of,
"what if this is my only christmas with them?"
So how can you be there for a foster family or child in foster care this holiday season? Here are a few small but meaningful gestures:
Raising a child takes a village, especially when the child comes from a hard place. Not everyone is called to foster or adopt a child, but there are so many ways to support the people who do. Please check our waitlist below to see if there is a foster family in need of a sponsor near you, and contact us for more information.