Although this is my favorite time of year, I am aware that for many, this season is extra hard. I know this to be true for foster youth and foster families. Kids in the system are desperate for normality and to have a sense of belonging, and this season reminds them they are living in a state of uncertainty, away from their loved ones. It’s a season where everyone around them exudes joy while the kiddos emotions are mixed. In addition, foster homes during this season are balancing visitations and restricted travel schedules. And on top of that, they are coming alongside kids from trauma who are most likely displaying defiant behavior because they don’t know how to process their emotions.
With our first son, the holidays were full of mixed emotions because we knew he would be returning to his birth family right after the New Year. We were constantly bombarded with feelings of sadness, excitement for them as a family, combined with all the Christmasy feels. It was a rollercoaster. But what stuck with us were the people who rallied around us. They surrounded our family and supported us in a way I’ve never experienced before. It was the reason we knew we could continue to foster even after we said good-bye, and through any season.
Now that for the time being I am on the other side, I want to be intentional with loving hard on foster youth and foster families. I decided to compile a list of ways to bless foster youth and foster families this holiday season if anyone else cares to rally, and a few things to consider if you will be interacting with foster youth this holiday season.
- Adopt a foster family. If you know a foster family personally, choose to love on them extra during this season. Maybe surprise them with gifts or tickets for a family outing. Or better yet, maybe gift the parents a date night, or bless them with a holiday meal. Anything to let them know that they are seen and supported.
- If you are in Southern California or the Northwest, Olive Crest has a drive called “Be The Miracle” in which you can adopt a foster child and fulfill their gift requests. https://www.olivecrest.org/events/be-the-miracle-2019-orange-county/ I personally have been the foster mother on the receiving side of this and I can say it means so much to see your child, who has experienced more heartache than they ever should have, be so blessed. Most foster agencies have something similar so check your local agencies for their Christmas programs.
- If you know of a teen or college student who’s in the foster system or has aged out, invite them to a holiday meal. For many of these teens, especially if they are living on a college campus, they don’t have a family to go home to during the holidays, and could be spending Christmas alone. If we surround these young adults with more kindness and support, more will achieve success and less will end incarcerated or on the street.
- Bless a child’s birth family. A lot of times, birth parents desperately want to provide a lovely holiday for their kids but have limited resources. So if you know of a foster family, ask if you can help them bless the birth parents of their kids. This will obviously depend on their case and the dynamics of their relationships but birth parents should never be forgotten during this season.
- Be sensitive when you are interacting with foster kids this holiday season. This season includes lots of hugs and sentiment and for some kids that is more than just uncomfortable, it’s painful. So don’t force anything at family gatherings or social events, and be aware of the verbiage you use when discussing family. Be intentional with your words so that all feel included and encouraged to find the joy this season.
My hope is that we all have a God-centered, fun, and special holiday season. But even more, that we not only celebrate with those who are celebrating, but also support, love and sit with those who may not be.
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