From Mountain Circle’s Executive Director, Dr. Shauna Rossington:
Working in the foster care field for almost 25 years has brought one realization—the holidays are a very conflictual time for our children and youth. Of course, every child and youth looks forward to the holidays with anticipation, but at the same time, the holidays remind them they are not with their biological family.
Without proven researched statistics to back this next statement up, I can however easily say our foster parents and social workers deal with a lot of unrest, unexplained behavioral outbursts, and overall sadness from our special kids.
It is always a sigh of relief when January 1 of the next year hits and our incident reports go down.
Below is a guide from ‘Casa for Children’ for working with foster children during the holidays, called “11 Steps to remember at the holidays” (for the complete article, please visit: http://nc.casaforchildren.org/files/public/community/volunteers/HelpYouthInFC-Holidays.pdf).
Here is a summary, as I wholeheartedly agree. If you do not read through the whole list, the one that really matters is #1!
- Understand if they pull away—“Despite your best efforts, a young person may simply withdraw during the holidays. Understand that this detachment most likely is not intended to be an insult or a reflection of how they feel about you, but rather is their own coping mechanism. Allow for “downtime” during the holidays that will allow the youth some time to themselves if they need it (although some youth would prefer to stay busy to keep their mind off other things — you will need to make a decision based on your knowledge of the young person). Be sure to fit in one-on-one time, personal time for your youth and you to talk through what they are feeling during this emotional and often confusing time of year.”
- Prepare the foster youth in your care for the holidays in your home–Basically, ask your child/youth if there are any traditions their family had and can these traditions be included into your traditions.
- Prepare friends and family before you visit–Let them know if there are any special concerns and that the holidays are hard times for our kids, so please, have a big heart and give a hug to them if you are experiencing the child/youth acting out.
- Remember confidentiality–Think in advance about how to answer questions while maintaining your youth’s confidentiality.
- Arrange meeting your family in advance —if it is not possible or practical to meet beforehand, make a list of names of some of the people they will meet and their connection to you.
- Have extra presents ready to help offset–Just be prepared in case a relative or friend arrives without a gift for your foster child, but for others in the home. Mountain Circle works closely with Toys for Tots to make sure all of our kids are taken care of– let your social worker know if you need more support, we’re here for you.
- Facilitate visits with loved ones–This is an imperative step. The holidays are about giving and thinking of others and if we cannot take the time to ensure our kids are able to connect with their loved ones, the point of the holidays is lost on them
- Help them make sure their loved ones are okay— Knowing that a biological parent or sibling has shelter from the cold or has their other basic needs met may ease a young person’s mind through the always emotional holidays.
- Extend an invitation If at all possible invite the biofamily to sit at your table, to share, to give, and to experience the true sense of the holidays.
- Assist in purchasing or making holiday gifts or in sending cards to their family and friends
- Call youth who formerly lived with you –check in on them, let you know you care, and if possible invite them to your house for the holidays. Mountain Circle is committed to staying in touch with our own clients as they grow older- for example, every teen
~Remember, it takes one continues caring adult to change a youth/child’s life. This is a proven researched fact.
If you are interested in more information on becoming a Foster/Resource Parent in Northern California or Nevada, contact us today!