How to help foster kids feel loved and supported during the holidays

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The holiday season can cause trauma for kids in foster care.

“They battle with the memories of family and the wishes to be with their loved ones,” FosterAdopt Connect Southwest Missouri Executive Director Brandi VanAntwerp said. “For a number of reasons, they may be separated from their family for the time being, or perhaps permanently. It’s important that we can understand that and we hold space for them and we allow kids who are going through those traumas to come to be able to express their feelings and help them find safe ways to express their emotions.”

There are many ways to create a space for kids that can include therapy or just a safe space. For Sarah Thornton, she makes sure to communicate with her kids on the holidays about what they’re comfortable participating in.

“I think that coming into care especially when you’re older adjusting to new traditions has to be a really challenging time, especially a room full of extended family members you don’t know, I know that that’s overwhelming,” Thornton said. “I communicate a lot and say you know this is what you should expect when you walk into my parents house. They all hug and it’s ok if you don’t. They can set those traditions how they want them at this point. It’s also important for them to feel a sense of belonging here and a sense of family.””

Thornton and her husband adopted four kids after fostering for ten years.

“Our youngest in our house is 14, and we have 16-year-old daughter at home.,” Thornton said. “All of our other children have either returned to their biological families or are adults now. We have a son who is 32 who we adopted two weeks before he turned 18. They were all local, lived locally and came to us through a couple different ways. Our 23-year-old we knew a little bit so that was an unusual situation where he ended a new place so we were so excited to have him grace our home.”

Thornton suggests creating a space where kids can be alone where they can go on their phones or a tablet. VanAntwerp said there are many ways people can support the foster care system.

“Whether that be becoming a foster care foster family, you know you can get licensed through private agencies or through the state you can donate to organizations that do support foster children,” VanAntwerp said. “You could become a Court Appointed Special Advocate4 (CASA), so there many ways you can give back to the foster care system.”

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