I would like to share the story of one of our children in the residential program that the child’s therapist has likened to a Christmas miracle and greatly exemplifies our mission here at Hillsides.
This year, Ben* 10, is experiencing something new for the holidays — a home with a loving resource or foster mother and a house decorated with a Christmas tree and holiday lights.
“I call it our Christmas miracle,” said Ben’s therapist, Jessica.*
Ben has spent the last few years living at Hillsides residential treatment program in Pasadena because his birth parents were unable to care for him. While the Hillsides staff poured love and support into giving Ben the best environment possible, they know that children do best in a home setting.
“Every child deserves a real childhood in a real home,” said Jessica.
Jessica and the rest of Ben’s team have been working hard to find Ben, an adorable dark-haired child with a sweet and open smile, a home. Besides Jessica, his team consisted of a facilitator, who managed his case and advocated for Ben in court; a child and family specialist who helped Ben with social skills; a parent partner to advocate for his birth mom; the cottage staff where Ben lived; and the campus supervisors who oversee all the cottages.
The team was also assisted by Hillsides Family Finding staff, who look for matches between children and resource or foster families, and Ben’s social worker from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
The stars started aligning for Ben when about a year ago his DCFS social worker found a potential foster mom. “We all jumped on the opportunity to make it happen,” said Jessica. “It is very hard to find foster parents who are prepared to handle our children and their needs.” The team worked with Ben so he would be emotionally ready to make the move into a foster home. They also spent time with the potential foster mom, making sure she was fully prepared for the arrival of an active 10 year old with a history of trauma into her home.
Finally the team was able to work out all the details, and in early December, Ben left Hillsides to live with his resource or foster mother. The day of his departure, Ben was excited about the queen-sized bed that awaited for him at his own bedroom in his new house and even better, a slew of video games to play.
Since his move, Jessica has visited Ben, and she is overjoyed at what she found. “He is thriving,” she said. “He is loving the structure the foster mom has implemented, he’s sleeping through the night, and the mom is advocating for him at the school and doing homework with him at night. She is dedicated to providing him with the attention he needs to succeed.”
Christmases at Hillsides are beautiful, with so many generous donors and volunteers dropping by to visit the children and bringing them gifts, and with the loving staff standing in for family. However, nothing can fully replace the love of a family.
“Ben is getting the Christmas he deserves, one that that all of our kids deserve – a homey Christmas, one, filled maybe not with his family, but with a definite sense of family and community,” said Jessica. “This will be a very rich and wonderful Christmas for him and for all of us who care about him deeply.”
As Christmas nears, I would like to thank all of our staff who work so hard to transform the lives of the children and families we serve. I would also like to ask our supporters to consider giving back to Hillsides over the holidays so more children like Ben can have happy holiday endings. To support our holiday giving drive, please visit: http://bit.ly/hillsidesholidaygiving. Thank you in advance.
- Names changed to protect the privacy of the child.