For kids in foster care, this can be a very difficult time of year. Displaced from biological family, still suffering the wounds from abuse and neglect. The concerns, fears and insecurities are abundant for these boys and girls. They’re asking questions – everyone else is smiling, why are they so happy? I hear this tale of Santa Claus; will he even know where I am?
It’s such a dichotomy from the Hallmark messaging of joy, love and family. I often wonder how these kids can manage. They’ve been in horrible situations where their lives are often in danger, the kids whose mom is cooking meth on the family stove, the children who have to hide from the angry boyfriend, or to scrounge for food in the cabinets to feed their younger siblings. Kids who can’t experience the carefree happiness of Christmas because they are forced into playing a role of parent at way too young an age.
There are a whopping 400,000+ children in foster care today in the United States. An astounding number of children who all have these same fears – will I ever find a family to provide me with love and safety?
We have a mission at Arizona Helping Hands. It is to bring a bit of joy and a bit of hope to the lives of Arizona’s 15,000+ kids who today are in our foster care system. From the most basic need – a place to sleep, to sharing a celebration – a birthday gift or holiday toy, our goal is to stand beside these boys and girls. To offer a package of goldfish when they walk in our front door, afraid and confused. To provide a train set to play with or a book to read while we help foster parents select clothing, diapers, personal care products and more. We know how important our work is, and are so grateful to the donors and supporters who allow us to carry on and touch more lives, lending a bit of sunshine and love.
As you gather together with family and friends this holiday season, I ask you to think of these children for a moment. To imagine what it’s like to question whether you belong, what your birth mom or siblings are doing that moment, whether the next year will bring more disruption to your life.
Arizonans have an opportunity to support our work, to provide a child with a bed or crib to sleep in, and to lend joy and hope to kids in foster care. The best part is that it will cost you NOTHING! Arizona’s foster care tax credit allows individuals to donate $1,000 as a married couple ($500 as a single taxpayer) to AHH and receive every penny back on your Arizona state tax return. In 2018 we have provided 3,400 kids with a bed or crib, 2,600 children with a personalized birthday package, 6,500+ with back-to-school items and most importantly, hugs and comfort for thousands.
Merry Christmas to all! I hope this season is filled with blessings for you and your family, AND that 15,000 children in foster care can feel a bit of joy. I clutch tightly to the hope that the future will bring abundant blessings for each of them as well!
Dan Shufelt is the President & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.