Holiday promotions have started earlier this year than in the past, and the context for most of these ads is gift giving within the family. Our residents don’t watch much television, but you can be sure that even limited exposure at this time of year will remind them of the loss they experience because they are separated from their families.
The most poignant plea that I get from our residents has to do with their deep desire to return to their homes in spite of some challenges their families are addressing. For children in foster care, their universal desire is to be part of a family –if not their own, preferably one that can help them maintain even tangentially a relationship with their family of origin. The need to count on a parent or an adult to protect, guide, and emulate is fundamental. Studies show that a child’s success in foster care is dependent on the relationship with a parent figure. Ideally the adult is a parent or at least someone within the family who can provide the child with a sense of identity and connectedness that will serve as a foundation for all future relationships.
Helping the children in our residential program develop and sustain relationships with their families is an important part of the services we offer them. The preference is to restore the relationship with one or both parents, however, if for some reason that is not possible, every effort is made to identify other family members who might be able to serve as a parent figure for the child. It requires a valiant and persistent effort on the part of our clinical staff to identify someone within the family who might assume the parent role even if just for a time until the relationship with the actual parents can be restored.
For these children, the loss of connectedness with their parents and family is profound and felt intensely during the holiday season. Our clinical staff uses this time to reach out to distant family members who may be a resource for these children in our care and ask them to have contact with them to ease a sense of alienation from the family and hopefully create an opportunity to connect. For our residents it is also an opportunity to reach out to relatives they may only barely know as a way of initiating a sense of connectedness that may lead to a deeper relationship. More often than not, these outreach efforts foster a family identity and a way to develop a sense of belonging that, in some instances, opens the door to a meaningful relationship.
For children we serve, who long to be part of a family, this time of year is very important. The holiday season is a time when we go to extraordinary lengths to reassure them that although they may miss being home with their families, they are not forgotten.
The holiday season is a time to create memories that can be cherished, assist families as they come together, and provide them with resources to celebrate the gift of family in spite of considerable challenges. Your support of these children and their families during this holiday season is indispensible as we reinforce for them our commitment to bring them together. To learn more of how you can help create memories for the children and families we serve, visit www.hillsides.org.