Every year, when I hear from staff that it is time to gather wish lists from our children, youth and families and submit them for Sponsor a Child, I generally respond with a sigh. Why a sigh? Because asking a child to identify gift(s) for their wish list is often met with confusion, resistance or other equally charged emotions. I have to remind myself that my excitement and enthusiasm for Sponsor a Child is not their experience. In some circumstances, our kids may not have celebrated Christmas before or they are not used to asking for a “gift” but rather for some basic need (i.e., toiletries or food). When encouraged to think “bigger”—beyond just what they need and ask for something that they want—our children often struggle. Intense thoughts and fears arise: Am I disloyal to my parents by requesting/accepting gifts? Does this mean I won’t be home by Christmas?
As a Social Worker, it’s my role to help my kids and teens understand that our community’s desire to give them gifts means only that they are loved. And once convinced that writing a wish list can be a good thing, next comes the awareness of all the wonderful possibilities, which is often met with bright smiles as they dream of bicycles, games, books, stuffed animals, Sephora gift cards, video games and more. It is possible that I am even more excited than the kiddo is at this point! And watching the community respond to our kids’ and families’ requests is always a humbling, yet amazing experience. I have seen entire families come through the door of FCNI bearing gifts for Sponsor a Child, and you can visually see how proud they are of the experience and their contribution.
Next, comes the anticipation and coordination of gift delivery. Does the foster parent want the child to receive the gift on Christmas morning per long a standing family tradition? Or, do they simply want to indulge the kiddo and his/her excited squeals by allowing them to open their wish when it arrives? I have had the privilege of participating in each of these scenarios and all the other possibilities in between. There have been many tears of gratitude, lots of stunned silence and countless jumps for joy.
Expressions of gratitude don’t often come readily from kids in foster care. Not because they aren’t grateful, but more often because they are in survival mode, especially during the holidays. Amazingly, more kids than not want to know who they can thank for their gifts. One kiddo expressed her thoughts perfectly when she said, “I didn’t think anyone would care that I was in a foster home. Then, I got this bike and it made me know that people care and it helped me learn that I am special too.”
Thank you, Central Coast Community, for giving me and the kids and families I’ve served priceless Sponsor a Child memories over the years. You may not know this, but these memories are some of ones that help shape these vulnerable lives in indelible ways.
To learn more about how you can participate in Sponsor a Child, please visit fcni.org/wish or call 805.781.3535.