Kids & Family

How You Can Help Give Foster Kids a Happy Holiday

Imagine being away from family and holiday traditions at this time of year. How you can change that for a child.

The holidays can be a tough time for children in foster care. They're in new homes, and often have to give up traditions they might have had with their biological families. Their new foster families might not have a lot of money to "play Santa." It's enough to make anyone scared and depressed. That's where programs come in that help make sure foster children receive something they can treasure for the holidays.

(Together We Rise volunteers, on their Facebook page with their Sweet Case bags)

Together We Rise is a national organization that works to change the way children experience foster care. They do many things, including provide kids in foster care with something called a "Sweet Case." These are duffels with a hygiene bag and comforting items like a stuffed animal and a cozy blanket, in a duffel they can use so they don't have to travel from home to home with their belongings in a trash bag. At the holidays you can sponsor a Sweet Case, or a " Giving Back Box " that contains several of the cases. Click here to find out more.

Check out the joy when volunteers went shopping with foster teens in Austin, TX, where TWR has a facility:

Treehouse , based in Seattle, WA, has a similar focus and mission, and also provides a wide range of services. At the holidays they do their Holiday Magic donation drive to collect new clothes, toys, bikes and gifts for teens ( click here ) and children in foster kids across Washington state.

(Volunteers sort donations in a picture from Treehouse's Facebook page )

Partnerships for Children , based in Austin, TX organizes their Holiday wishes program this time of year. Central Texas children give a wishlist to their caseworker, then the group matches those lists with generous donors to fulfill. Click here for more information.

(From Partnerships for Children Facebook page , volunteers at their warehouse)

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services Holiday Project in Pittsburgh, PA is collecting new, unwrapped gifts for kids who receive services through the department's Office of Children, Youth and Families. Click here to find a list of most wished-for gifts. To make it more personal, you can get the "wish list" of an individual child or sibling group by e-mailing them ( click here ) . Unwrapped gifts are being collected now through Friday, December 6. Click here to find the many drop-off locations.

If you've ever experienced the holidays in a place that wasn't really "home" then you know what these children will be going through. Why not consider doing something to make their holidays a little more special? If these suggestions don't move you, why not check with your local social service agency that serves foster kids -- we bet they have a similar program.

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