Arizona Helping Hands brings Hope for the Holidays to Children in Foster Care!

Statewide statistics published in the semi-annual report of the Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) should make everyone concerned.  The report for the year ending June 30, 2020 shared that during those 12 months, 9,566 children entered the foster care system.  For that same period, the DCS received 45,172 reports requiring investigation.  70% of the reports were for neglect, 25% for physical abuse and the balance reported sexual and emotional abuse.  That’s a lot of boys and girls whose lives have been turned upside down by actions inflicted on them by adults.

The report showed that the average time a child will spend in a foster placement was 19.6 months.  Almost two years spent in foster care while the world decides if reunification with your biological family is a safe and healthy option, or if a foster placement is the best option for a child.  The report also reflected that 355 children aged out of the foster care system, most likely never finding their forever family.

The holidays bring a myriad of emotional challenges for everyone, and even more so in these days of COVID-19.  But what about children in foster care?  The holiday season evokes so many feelings of doubt, insecurity and uncertainty.  The average number of placements a child in foster care in Arizona will experience is 1.4, with some children being moved more than a dozen times.  It’s no wonder that some of these boys and girls wonder if Santa even knows how to find them!

Arizona Helping Hands exists to bring hope to the 14,000 children currently in the state’s foster care system.  Along with our programs that provide basic needs including beds, cribs, clothing, diapers and school supplies, we add a big dose of love with our Birthday Dreams Program and Holiday Toy Drive.  It’s these two activities that truly tell children in foster care that they are important and loved.  This month we want to bring Hope for the Holidays to thousands of boys and girls in foster care.

2020[KP1]  will mark our 22nd annual Holiday Toy Drive, and again we will rely on our community partners to let children in foster care know that Santa will arrive at their house.  In 2019, we provided gift packages to 6,500 boys and girls.  We set a much smaller goal for 2020, hoping that despite these days of the pandemic, we will generate the resources to provide two toys and a book to 3,500 children in foster care this December.  With businesses working remotely, and holiday celebrations that served as collection opportunities not being held, we face a big challenge, but we are hopeful our friends will rise to the occasion this year.

In past years, our Fill Santa’s Sleigh holiday[KP2]  party was held at our warehouse and attended by many visitors who delivered toys, games, books and puzzles to help fill those gift packages.  This year’s event will change, out of necessity, to a drive-through collection party to be held on Tuesday December 8th from 5 to 8PM.  Guests will be shepherded through our parking lot, passing by carolers and a photo op with Santa after dropping off their donated items to Fill Santa’s Sleigh for children in foster care.  We are hoping for a traffic jam at 3110 East Thunderbird Road in Phoenix as a caring community shows their heart to help and packs our box truck with holiday joy and hope for children in foster care.

Bringing hope to children who have lived a life that has been filled with trauma is the mission that Arizona Helping Hands takes on year round.  We all have an opportunity this holiday season to bring Hope for the Holidays to boys and girls who deserve a little extra love and support.  Will you help us make sure that no child wonders why Santa didn’t show up at their home this December 25th?

[KP1]We might include Holiday Toy Drive so maybe say something like “This year, we are hosting the 22nd Annual Holiday Toy Drive…”[KP2]Maybe include “Fill Santa’s Sleigh” somewhere?

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 dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org

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