It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or so the song goes, right? According to the song, kids should be “jingle belling” and our collective hearts should be glowing. I’m “all in” for living in that world. However, reality is often far from this lovely image of this hypothetical holiday-world. The bigger reality is that the holidays can be a very difficult time. Our kids and families are no exception and, in fact, their traumatic experiences and situations can make it the most difficult time, far from wonderful.
The holiday season can truly be a magical time for us all. It is wonderful to spend time with family, have big holiday dinners and, of course, give and receive presents. It is a time to celebrate and Give Joy. But for some, the holidays can be absolutely dreadful. Holidays are expensive and, as a struggling parent, fear can take over, knowing that you won’t be able to provide for your child. A distressing reminder that due to current circumstances you cannot make ends meet let alone make the holidays special.
This year, Family Care Network launched our Give Joy fundraising campaign to raise funds to provide the children, youth and families in our care with everything they need to have a positive holiday experience. As our team was planning this campaign, setting goals, and reaching out to our community for support, I couldn’t help but reflect on the true meaning and impact of joy itself. After a very hard year, especially for the children and families we serve, there is such a need for joy and light-heartedness.
I am a firm believer that there is a “child” in all of us. Regardless of our age, we all love to play and have fun. But, if you have lost that inner child, then I’m going to try to revive it back to life. One of the healthiest things that we can do in the midst of this Covid-19 storm is to balance the ledgers filled with negativity and fear, with good old-fashioned fun!
Five years ago this month, my wife, Melissa, and I started to entertain an “out of the ordinary” idea. We were living in Tanzania while working at a nonprofit, but we were visiting the central coast as my wife was in the final trimester of her second pregnancy. Already with our two year old daughter, Promise, in tow, and a baby boy just weeks away, we started to consider how we might continue building our family through adoption, specifically by adopting an older child.
No one’s path in life is straight, without mountains to climb and valleys to cross. For foster youth, their mountains often appear much too early in life--oftentimes at birth. And without a community to look out for them, to help them weather and cross the difficult terrain that surfaces through not fault of their own, they can be left to wander, uncared for, for life. Too often, these individuals become victims of their circumstances, suffering cyclical consequences of a lifepath they never got to choose.
I hope that I’m not the only one who finds it very disturbing that the wellbeing of children and youth in this country is ascribed such a low priority. Among all nations of the world, the USA ranks number two for the highest child abuse rate per capita, far worse than countries like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh. Of the 35 developed countries, the United States ranks 34th in its child poverty rate. Add to these rankings that we also have one of the highest infant mortality rates and very low academic achievement, and our country isn’t painted in a very pretty picture.
Given the immense wealth and resources we have in this country, there is no excuse for our kids to suffer and fall short the way that they do. Unfortunately, our many shortcomings can be easily explained – our Policymakers and power brokers simply don’t give a ##@&!