Connie Schultz asks us to please consider donating to a teen in foster care in her column, “Teens In Foster Care Deserve A Christmas Too:”
Remember how hard it was to be a teenager? All that angst and self-doubt, surrounded by family who didn’t understand you.
Now try to imagine what it’s like to be that teenager in foster care, at Christmas.
Jen Burrows is 28 now, but every December triggers her teenage memories of foster child Christmases.
“You want to feel special, but if you’re in foster care, you already know you aren’t,” she told me in a phone interview from her home in West Salem, Ohio. “Every Christmas, I’d go into my bedroom and just cry.”
Jen’s parents abandoned her when she was 18 months old. She and her sister, who is a year older, were raised by an abusive aunt and uncle for 12 years. When Jen was 14, she was placed in foster care. She spent most of the next four years with one foster family. She is quick to point out that for all her feelings of loss and sadness, she was “one of the lucky ones” at Christmas.
“When I was in the system, I’d go to the holiday party at Jobs and Family Services,” she said. “Santa was there passing out gifts, and each teenager got one. I can’t even remember what mine was. Most of the gifts were meant for little kids. What I do remember is looking around and thinking, ‘I am so grateful for my foster parents, who use their own money to give me a Christmas.’ Any gifts from foster parents come out of their own pockets, which means a lot of kids like me got nothing at all.”
This month, tens of thousands of teenagers in foster care across America and in your town have no idea whether anyone will remember them at Christmas. In the Cleveland area alone — where I live — nearly 800 teens are living in foster care. The Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services is trying to raise awareness through its Giving Tree program so that well-meaning donors — individual and corporate — will contribute to these older children in need.