The little boy entered the door of Arizona Helping Hands with his foster mom. Like most boys and girls we meet, he seemed a bit reserved. He stood at the front door taking it all in – the mobile that hangs from our lobby ceiling, the furniture colors, the toys and welcoming environment seemed to ease his anxiety a bit.
I’m seldom at the front desk, but I had the pleasure of saying hello to this youngster. Offering him a snack from our snack cabinet, “Elliott” chose not one but two packs of Oreos! He told me that they were his favorites. He sat down on the floor to play with our train set while I handled the paperwork with his foster mom. Next thing I know Elliott walked up to show me that he had written his name on the etch-a-sketch. I had made a friend!
This 10 year old boy exhibited signs of delayed development, not unusual for children in the foster care system. His foster mom shared with me that he had been in and out of foster care, in multiple homes while his biological mother fought with demons of drug abuse. I saw a connection between Elliott and his foster mom and figured he had been with her for a number of weeks or maybe even months. To my surprise, she shared that he was just placed with her the day before. It is both sad and hopeful that this child could have such resilience, and could initiate a bond so quickly.
I walked Elliott back into our warehouse while mom pulled around to the rear doors. She was at Arizona Helping Hands to pick up a bed for him to sleep comfortably on tonight. It’s what we do every day – giving kids a safe place to sleep. Elliott stopped in our play barn to relax in the bean bag chair and play with the kid’s kitchen set. We loaded up mom’s car, piled in the sheets, pillow, blanket and more, and then invited mom to shop through our clothing supplies.
Elliott was called over to check the fit of some clothing. After that work was done, he selected a stuffed teddy bear from our supplies. The smile on his face while he held his teddy bear (it even matched the blue shirt he was wearing) was priceless. With the car now packed full, Elliott and his one day mom drove away, to create a friendly home environment for one little boy in need.
Such is life in the foster care system. Kids’ lives are disrupted due to the actions of ignorant adults putting their own needs ahead of those of their children. I am so grateful to foster parents who open up their hearts and homes to provide safety and comfort to children like Elliott, children who desperately seek to find that one caring adult to help them on the journey. The risks foster parents take are huge – welcoming a stranger into your family poses risks, but also presents a huge opportunity. YOU can be the force in helping kids like Elliott find their way. I have enormous respect and admiration for the men and women who choose this path.
Thank you also to the community of donors who help Arizona Helping Hands ease the process for foster families. You give us the ability to provide items that lend safety, comfort and hope to so many through our myriad of programs. We can’t help Elliott, Suzie, Jeremiah, Ariel and so many others without your support. I give sincere Thanks to all who care about Bringing Hope to the 14,000 boys and girls in foster care in Arizona.
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.