Sarah wants just one thing this holiday season: a gift card to Starbucks.
Fifteen-year-old Sarah sits curled in a chair, her long hair hiding an unsure smile as I ask her what kind of gift cards she might like. “American Eagle? Target? A pizza place?” I suggest. She is wary and hesitant. I don’t ask her what circumstances brought her into the foster care system. I have been involved with that system long enough to know that whatever the details, it includes unimaginable heartbreak. “Starbucks?” I continue.
Her smile brightens, perhaps commonplace for any teen, but a breakthrough for Sarah. She replies “Yeh. Starbucks.”
“Starbucks. Ok. What else? Old Navy? WalMart? Movies?” I ask.
“Just Starbucks,” she says.
“You must really like coffee,” I joke.
“Not really,” she replies, “But, when me and my friends go to Starbucks, they usually have to pay for me. I want to be able pay for them.” I am stunned, as I often am in my work with foster children, by the kindness that continues to bloom in a field tilled with trauma. Sarah, who has so little for herself, wants only to repay kindness. What we may view as a simple act, buying someone a cup of coffee, means so much more to a teen who has experienced trauma. It’s not the coffee that Sarah values: it’s the inclusion, the friendship, the normalcy of having a cup of coffee with friends. It is her peers telling her she is worthy and valued.
This is exactly why I began the Christmas Wallet program. Having six foster children of my own, I can personally testify to the difficulty of finding the means to provide care beyond the basics of food and safe shelter; providing typical teenager things which promote healing and growth. Things like camps, music lessons, sports, prom dresses, and, yes, Christmas gifts. Many gift-giving organizations have an age cut-off of 12 or 13, meaning the teenagers most in need are excluded.
I urge you to make this holiday season one of inclusion by donating to the Christmas Wallet program, even if it is only enough for a couple cups of coffee. Because it is not the cup of coffee you are giving: it is the inclusion, the friendship, the normalcy. It is telling a traumatized teenager they are worthy and valued.
Christmas is a hard time for teens in foster care and families. Many teens spend the holiday in shelters, group homes or without any family. Foster Parents also have a hard time as calls for holiday placements increase, leaving them with the burden of purchasing gifts so the youth don’t feel left out.
Together we can help this Holiday Season! We are making it simple! Simply donate a $10.00 gift card or chose to sponsor one of our youth. Together we can bring a smile and holiday cheer in the life of a teen in foster care.