Each year, our Sponsor a Child for the Holidays giving campaign has a profound and far-reaching impact on the children, youth and families we serve. In wanting you--our community--to truly understand how meaningful, how empowering and how vital the gift cards and funds you gave are, I reached out to our families to hear from them myself what Sponsor a Child meant to them. I then sat down with and interviewed a local family who wanted to share their experience with you all; below, I share their story written from their perspective.
Tag: Sponsor A Child
“Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.” --George Sand, 1870
The programs and support we provide to the youth and families in our care are designed to be strength-based, trauma-informed, and, most of all, empowering. We believe that the relationship between caregivers--whether they be biological parents/family members, foster parents, respite providers, teen parents or adoptive/guardians--and the children in their care is vital to the overall success of every child and family. Therefore, empowering and encouraging healthy relationships within families is one of our main objectives.
Sponsor a Child for the Holidays is a time each year when our community comes together to make holiday dreams come true for the youth and families we serve. It’s a fun and magical time, and as a Social Worker at the Family Care Network for the past few years, I have many special memories of our families enjoying this tradition during the holidays.
The past few weeks have been somewhat of a shocker to me; a real hit from the blindside. Every year, the Family Care Network engages the community to provide a lovely holiday for the children, youth and families we serve – all of whom are victims of trauma and unfortunate life circumstances. This year, instead of asking folks to provide specific gifts for specific individuals, we asked people to contribute cash or gift cards so that we could empower our families to care for their own so they could experience the joy of giving themselves.
Gifts come in all shapes and sizes—from extravagant, to handmade, or sentimental and even humorous. While every gift given for the pure joy of its recipient is meaningful, “life changing” gifts are in a category all to themselves. These are the gifts that when given, change the mindset, the circumstances and even the futures of those being gifted. Every holiday season, Mike McCarthy partners with us to give such a gift to one of our families working towards successful self-sufficiency. And witnessing each family’s joy at receiving Mike’s gift leaves not one dry eye at FCNI, and reminds each of us that we live in a truly remarkable community.
This holiday season, I will be celebrating my 43rd Christmas. In this time, I have made many holiday memories--some good, some not so good, and some which are still very funny. After all these Christmases, I have one particular memory which sticks out in my mind, and it involved “Santa’s Workshop”. No, I didn’t grow up in the North Pole, but I did grown up in Texas. And every year at my elementary school before school ended for the winter break, the stage in our cafeteria would be transformed into “Santa’s Workshop.” When I say “transformed,” I mean folding tables were set up in rows and a variety of family-satisfying gifts were put out on the tables. Gifts such as coffee mugs displaying slogans like “World’s Best Dad”, ceramic figurines of all sorts, neck ties, aprons, and, yes, even ashtrays (remember, this was over 30 years ago) lined the tables for students to peruse and purchase for different family members as gifts for the holidays. Every year, as I stood on the wooden steps leading to “Santa’s Workshop,” my anxiety would rise in hopes that the children in front of me would not buy the last pet rock which I knew my dad wanted more than anything. As I retell this memory, I am somewhat surprised at how a humble school fundraiser contributed so greatly to the development of my character as an adult and father. “Santa’s Workshop” helped to form generosity within me. It was the first time in my life that I remember thinking about other people and what they would like or need as a gift. This kind of generosity is a character trait that I strive to instill in my own children to this day.
We work and serve in a very challenging field, and we can’t avoid acknowledging and responding to the vast injustices our foster children have experienced. However, it is far too easy to forget that these children are just children. They tell me, at the end of the day, they want and think about the same things the other kids in the neighborhood think about, the same things their peers worry about, the same things “normal” kids dream for. And while it is true that our foster kids do indeed have additional complicating factors and concerns–supervised visitation with a biological parent, separation from siblings, life away from the home they knew–they often want to be thought of for other things; things that might seem irrelevant and inconsequential to those working with these kids who know the gravity of their whole situation. To illustrate, these kids follow pop culture, they care about what’s “cool,” they have favorite foods, they laugh and joke with friends…and they also happen to be in foster care. The point, though, is they happen to also be in foster care; they aren’t just about foster care.
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.
The Holidays are coming soon, and that means FCNI’s annual Sponsor a Child for the Holidays gift gathering campaign is well under way. Last year, the community fulfilled over 1000 wishes through Sponsor a Child—an impressive number that brought immense joy to those we serve, as well as a lot of inspiration and gratitude from our staff. This year, we will have an even greater need. At the end of each summer, we ask our children and youth to fill out their “Wish Lists” for the holidays, which we then distribute throughout our community.