Lois M. Collins: Amid the bustle of Christmas, let’s find the ones who get left out

Jacob Lund, Adobe Stock

Foster care numbers are growing, while the number of stable foster homes is shrinking. And every year, kids who could really use some connections embark on journeys can be strikingly solitary.

The holidays always make me wonder about lives that are unlike mine and thus unfamiliar. I wonder how people are doing amid the bustle of the family gatherings and parties and other festivities that mark the season for most of us.

I love Christmas, but a large part of the magic is that I am surrounded by people I love — and who love me back.

I think about old people who may not have family close by – or may not have family at all. I think about adults who have mental disabilities because I’ve been told they often think and act like children and pine for gifts from Santa this time of year, but that’s not always on the giving public’s radar. Years ago, I wrote about a man in his 70s who’d been asking Santa for a train set for decades.

I’ve written about Christmas for people who are homeless or forgotten. I’ve written about a family celebrating what would surely be the mom’s last Christmas with her family, because she had a devastating illness.

But lately, I’ve started to wonder about all the young adults who don’t have families of their own — especially the older kids who are aging out of foster care without reuniting with their families or being adopted by new ones.

There’s a lot to ponder about foster kids, not just those transitioning to adulthood, in some cases without permanent ties. I suspect Christmas is hard on most foster kids, caught between their birth families and uncertainty — and there are a lot of them. The Chronicle for Social Change has for some time been predicting that we would see an increase in foster care numbers, while it has also predicted a decrease in foster homes to care for the children and teens. It appears to have been right on both counts. It reported this week that the most recent count from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) found a fourth straight year of increases. More than 437,000 kids are in foster care in America. About 92,000 of them were plucked from homes…

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