By Vicki Spriggs
Chief Executive Officer of Texas CASA
For so many of us, the holiday season is full of excitement, celebration, family, warmth and community. As we enjoy this time with loved ones and get ready for the New Year, let’s make sure we’re keeping children in foster care in our hearts.
The fact is, some of these children are spending the season in emergency shelters, state hospitals, residential treatment centers… even on the streets. And those who are living with relatives or foster families over the holidays – the most “normal” of out-of-home care situations – are still missing their families and friends, and wondering if they’ll have presents, happy memories and stories to talk about with their classmates after the break.
There are many wonderful organizations that are working to create happier, more hopeful holidays for these children and could use your support. In the spirit of the season, I want to draw your attention to a handful of them, and get you thinking about where you could get involved.
San Antonio Threads provides free new clothes and accessories, and a fun shopping experience, for teens who are in foster care, experiencing homelessness or otherwise in need. They recently opened a second location in Austin, with plans to continue to expand. They offer volunteer opportunities; you can also donate money or new clothes.
Austin-based nonprofit Partnerships for Children also has a Holiday Wishes program – you can sponsor a child, become an ambassador for the program, donate gifts or make a monetary donation.
The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) manages “rainbow rooms” across the state that are stocked with essentials, emergency items, food baskets, toys and more. You can donate supplies to rainbow rooms. You can also volunteer to help sort, organize and inventory donations – and specifically, you can shop for and wrap holiday gifts for children of all ages.
Also, there are over 190 county child welfare boards across the state that work at the grassroots level to meet the needs of children and families in the child welfare system in a variety of ways, including hosting holiday celebrations and working with rainbow room groups.
One Simple Wish works with over 700 social service agencies throughout the United States to collect wishes from children in foster care. They post the wishes on their website, giving you the chance to bring love, hope and joy to a child who really needs it. Learn more about One Simple Wish’s many programs and get involved.
Every child deserves a cozy bedtime and a good night’s sleep. Pajama Program gives new pajamas and new books to children all across the country, including children experiencing homelessness. It’s a wonderful program to support, especially in the colder months. There are many ways to get involved, including donating to a local chapter and volunteering individually or as a group.
Not in a place to volunteer time or donate goods or funds this holiday season? No problem! Donate your small talk instead. Word of mouth is the most effective way to engage people in a cause – so talk with your loved ones about foster care and the challenges these children and their families face. While you’re at it, if you know someone who would make a great CASA volunteer, nominate them!
There are so many ways, big and small, that you can get involved in your community and create a happier holiday season for all – these are just scratching the surface.
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and make a difference, and brighten the holidays for Texas children!
If you are not currently involved with CASA, I ask you today to consider how you can play a part in making a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children. Are you ready to take the first step towards becoming a CASA volunteer? Visit BecomeACASA.org to learn how you can speak up for a child who needs you. You can also support the work of Texas CASA by making a secure online gift that will benefit the local CASA volunteer advocacy programs across the state.