TOPEKA – This can be a difficult time of year for children in foster care and the young adults who have aged out of the State’s system. The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) is teaming up with its foster care contractors, KVC and Saint Francis Community Services, to bring holiday cheer, by ensuring that each child and young person it serves in the child welfare system has a gift for the holidays.
“Christmas is a time when families often celebrate each other’s company, so it can be hard for children in foster care to feel festive,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “It’s important that as a community, we do what we can to let them know they are important and deserve a merry Christmas.”
Many of the more than 600 young adults, ages 18 to 23, who have recently aged out foster care may be without a place to call home or a family with which to celebrate the holidays. DCF launched Project Hope for the Holidays last year, on a limited basis, and has this year expanded statewide. The campaign ensures that each young adult it serves through the DCF Independent Living program receives a gift.
Project Hope for the Holidays identified aged-out youth who are isolated, lacking support, have children of their own or are pregnant to provide them practical gifts this year. The agency has invited individuals, businesses and organizations to sponsor gifts for the youth and also provide a holiday card and personal message of encouragement. DCF social workers will deliver these items to the youth.
“Our goal is that through Project Hope for the Holidays, the youth form connections with their communities and can feel that there are people around them who care,” said DCF Independent Living Program Manager Stacy Tidwell.
This year, First Lady Mary Brownback is helping the agency to promote the campaign, by appearing in a public service announcement (link below), to share with Kansans how they can help.
“Many young people who age out of the system have no family to celebrate the holidays with or to bless with gifts,” the First Lady said. “Every child deserves to know he or she is important and loved. This is a simple way for each of us to help these special young people feel that support.”
Along with Project Hope for the Holidays, foster care contractors, KVC and Saint Francis Community Services have been busy collecting donations for children in foster care. KVC’s Holiday Heroes program coordinates a gift drive to brighten the holidays for more than 3,000 children in foster care. KVC serves the East and Kansas City DCF regions.
Saint Francis Community Services also provides gifts for all of the children in its care through its Christmas for the Kids campaign. Serving 75 percent of the counties in Kansas (DCF’s West and Wichita regions), the organization provides Christmas gifts to approximately 10,000 children in several states—nearly 1,500 in the Wichita region alone.
For more information on how you can help
youth who have aged out of foster care, contact Tracy Crockett at 785-296-6846 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To give a gift as an individual or organization through KVC’s Holiday Heroes, visit kansas.kvc.org
or contact Jackie Harwig at 913-499-8100 or by email at email@example.com. To participate in the Saint Francis Christmas for the Kids effort, online donations can be made through www.ChristmasforKids.com