Out of Home for the Holidays
There's a part of us that longs for acceptance and connection. To know that others care deeply for us, are willing to sacrifice their time for our well-being, and celebrate our existence without expecting us to prove our self-worth. Most of us have had those experiences in our lives when the mere presence of another person brings out this feeling of belonging, love, and the evaporation of all pretenses and tensions. Often this comes when we arrive home after a long day or visit a family member or loved one. Our worries melt away and we are left with the feeling that we are alright.
As the Holiday Seasons descends upon us, many of us are compelled to connect with family members to find acceptance, celebrate our lives, and ponder what the future may hold. It is during these moments that I wonder what it is like to know that there is no home to go back to and no family member safe enough to visit. For some children, the holidays are spent out of their home. In 2014, LUK served over 280 youth in Intensive Foster Care and over 180 youth and children in residential care homes. Every Holiday Season, LUK serves youth and children who cannot return home. They celebrate the Holidays and New Year in a group home or foster family, surrounded by caring staff but without people that hold their lifetime memories.
What's it like to light another family's menorah or open Christmas gifts brought by an agency? What does it feel like to sit down for a large dinner with other children who have nowhere to go? What do I feel when I watch the New Year ring in and not be aware of where I will live in the next year? How do I navigate a home that does not fully comprehend Three Kings Day and I don't get to enjoy my grandmother's cooking?
The good news, is that most of the youth we serve are reunited with family or kin for the Holidays, but we always have a few that remain. It tears me up to think how these youth navigate the holidays knowing that their families are unable or unwilling to care for them. While I am proud of the care and nurturance our staff members provide our children and youth participants every day, I remain troubled when I hear that some youth consider their case worker to be their closest adult adult in their lives.
Every child deserves acceptance, nurturance, and love from a consistent adult in their lives. Someone who has their back, challenges them, unconditionally accepts them, and builds them up. When youth experience lives riddled by abuse, chronic neglect, chaos, or exposure to violence, they often lose connection to a key aspect of child and adolescent development - the ability to develop trust and hope. As a community-based organization dedicated to meeting the needs of the children and youth in our care, I know that many youth thrive and experience positive development in our programs. But when children are discharged from our care or age out of the child welfare system I worry about their ability to navigate life without consistent adults in their lives.
As we enter 2015, I continue to hold out hope that more people in Massachusetts consider becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent to a waiting child. As the adoptive father of four children, I know that raising a family is not easy. However, I know that my life has been transformed by my children and feel privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of a loving family. I hope you will reach out to us if you have questions about becoming a foster parent or are seeking resources toward adoption. LUK is always looking for to add to our amazing community of foster care parents!
May your holidays and New Year be healthy, peaceful, and surrounded by loved ones who accept you just the way you are!