For many families, the holidays are a time of great excitement and joy, with presents, delicious meals, and time spent with family and friends.
For foster children, however, the holidays can be a time of stress and sadness, a time when recalling families may dredge up unhappy memories, and they may be living with people they do not know very well.
Some foster children may never have even experienced a real holiday celebration, with presents and holiday displays.
The Safe Children Coalition’s Foster Angels program works to ensure that foster children feel the warmth of the holiday season through the donation of gifts from caring members of the community.
The program matches sponsors to children’s gift wish lists. Families, businesses, nonprofit organizations and religious institutions can request wish lists, shop and then bring the gifts to the Safe Children Coalition office, or people can donate money and program staff and volunteers can do the shopping on their behalf.
“The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to give thanks and to give back to people who are facing challenges within our communities,” said Sarasota YMCA Senior VP of Community Based Care Brena Slater.
“For foster children, who have been through so much in their young lives, even a little kindness and compassion can go such a long way. We need the community’s help to improve the lives of these children, who will be so thankful that people cared to remember them and share the joy of the season with them.”
There are about 1,600 children being served in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties — some in the Venice area — through the Safe Children Coalition program, which provides safe and nurturing foster homes.
When children are removed from a home, the primary reasons are parent substance abuse or domestic violence. About 65 children enter foster care every month; when a child is removed from their home, foster parents provide temporary care while the parent or parents receive help.
The Sarasota YMCA serves as the lead agency for community- based care in its three- county area. The Safe Children Coalition is a collaboration of the Y and local community entities who, together, provide a continuum of child welfare services for dependent children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Child protection services provided include case management, foster care, independent living and adoptions.