Sometimes, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members who undertake the task of rearing their young relatives struggle provide for the children.
“It’s so difficult to make ends meet every week even with support from the state,” said Trenny Stovall, director of the DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center (CAC). For some, “being able to provide Christmas for these kids” is a hardship—especially when multiple children are brought into the home.
That’s why the CAC for the past nine years has provided Christmas gifts and meals for former foster children through a program called Hope for the Holidays.
Stovall said the Hope for the Holidays event is one way that the CAC attempts to bring a little joy and normality to the lives of some of these children. The program has sponsored more than 400 children since it began.
For years, the gifts for the program were usually supplied by DeKalb county workers, Stovall said. But as the economy entered a recession, “Things were tight.”
The program has provided Christmas gifts for as many as 100-150 children in a year, but in 2009 only approximately 30 children were helped. With assistance from the community, that number has grown to approximately 70 children this year.
Stovall said the CAC has taken on this holiday project because “our job doesn’t end at providing legal support in court.”
When children age out of foster care, they are two to three times more likely to be homeless, unemployed, criminally active or get pregnant, Stovall said. “We have failed these kids if they are not thriving when they leave foster care.”
The CAC, which represents 1,000 children each year, provides legal support and advocates for children who have been abused and neglected, most of whom reside in foster care. Last year, more than 580 children entered the foster care system in DeKalb County. Several hundred leave foster care annually.
The CAC is seeking financial and in-kind support from the community for its Hope for the Holidays event. All contributions will be used to directly benefit the selected families. In the past, in-kind donations have included gift cards, holiday dinner baskets or vouchers, clothing, educational aids, toys, etc. Financial donations will be used to purchase items from wish lists that have been submitted by the selected families.
Stovall said buying toys for younger children is easy and more popular, but a particular need is gifts for teenagers such as gift cards and movie passes. Examples of in-kind business donations are reduced cost haircuts and hairstyling provided by Pro Way Hair School on Memorial Drive.
“DeKalb children deserve to thrive,” Stovall said. “We believe that they deserve what we deserve.”
Stovall said the CAC is planning to distribute the gifts on Dec. 18.