by Kayla Gonzalez
The holidays are a time for gathering with friends, family and loved ones. Many of us happily anticipate taking part in yearly traditions and look forward to reuniting with everyone we care about. Particularly as Thanksgiving arrives, we often take time to reflect on our fortunes, acknowledging what we’re grateful for and appreciating being surrounded by a loving and caring community.
Unfortunately for a young person in foster care, the holiday season can remind them of a family or community that they’ve lost. Many youth in the foster care system can’t spend the holidays with their biological family. Holiday traditions are hard to establish for a child who is constantly moved from home to home, with unfamiliar surroundings and different people. During Thanksgiving, family gatherings in a foster home, while well-intentioned, can make a child feel like an outsider. Often, they may compare their circumstances to others around them, leaving them feeling vulnerable, isolated, or forgotten. If placed in a home with unfamiliar customs, observing the holidays with people who might have different beliefs or traditions can feel awkward.
While experiencing the holidays with a family not their own can be challenging, placement with a foster family, family friend, or additional relative can still provide a safe space for a youth to spend the season. Involving a youth in holiday preparations, explaining who will be there, and what to expect can alleviate some of the anxiety they may feel from the idea of large gatherings. Recognizing that a foster child feels an absence of family during this time and understanding the sadness that follows will ensure that their feelings are not ignored. Hearing that their presence is one to be thankful for and knowing that they have a special place at the table can remind each child that they matter.
The consistency of a caring adult plays an important role in making the holidays memorable for a youth. A CASA volunteer can provide the stability and support that a youth in foster care may not be able to find elsewhere. Special events, such as SFCASA’s annual holiday party, are an opportunity for a volunteer and their youth to spend valuable time together and celebrate. A youth can count on their mentor and advocate being there for them, even when no one else can. Having a CASA means a youth has someone special to share the season with so they too can have happy holiday memories.
The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but also a time to be mindful of others who may not have a family to celebrate with. SFCASA’s gift drive and other donation opportunities can help make the holidays special for each youth in foster care. The support of our community makes a difference for the youth that we serve, and impacts our ability to speak up for the rights of our community’s foster children. To see how you can help give back to our foster care community during the holiday season, visit our Support page.