Kris’ Corner – Christmas in Foster Care

by Andra Martinez

I know in a previous post I discussed navigating the holidays with biological parents. Now, I’d actually like to put some thoughts down regarding the holidays in terms of the foster kids themselves.

This year, being what it is, we might not all have the large family gatherings that we have had in the past. So, it may not be as much of an issue. However, I’m going to address it as though it is a typical year.

The holidays are difficult for many people, but especially for foster kids. They are not with their biological family. Can you even imagine how that must feel…to be away from the comfort of home? As we’ve discussed previously, being away from what is normal is very unsettling and upsetting, even if that normal is not healthy.

To make matters worse, the foster children may be living with a family who doesn’t know what to do in regards to the holidays. The foster family might be thinking about things such as:

  • Do we include the foster kids in the family pictures?
  • Do we buy them the same number of gifts as our biological children?
  • Do we spend the same amount on each foster child?
  • Do we have to spend our own money beyond what DCS and Children’s Bureau will reimburse us for?
  • How does our extended family handle gift buying (and all the other “holiday activities”)?
  • Is it ok for our extended family to buy gifts for our biological children but not our foster children?
  • Or can they obviously “go cheap” on the foster kids “because it doesn’t matter…they aren’t really our kids”?
  • How should all these things (and more) be handled?

As you’re reading through these questions, you can probably guess what I’m going to say next.  And if you can’t, you might be new to my blog.

The kids in your care should be treated as though they are your kids. Because at least for this period of time…they are your kids. They should be treated with the same love, care, compassion and respect as any child who is legally yours forever. So, if you spend a certain amount on each child, that amount should also be spent on the foster child. That might mean spending out of your own pocket for gifts (beyond what DCS and Children’s Bureau reimburse) or cutting back on what you spend on your biologicals.

I know this next thing might be super touchy but I’m going to say it anyway; extended family should do the same. If they have trouble with accepting this concept, to make things equal, then maybe you, as the parents, need to tell them not to bother buying any gifts.

Ouch. But I continue…

More that likely, your biological children will be OK without the gifts of extended family. Above all else, and more importantly, you will have salvaged the respect of and prevented the emotional damage of your foster children.

If you have family Christmas traditions, include the foster children; even if it’s difficult and it costs you money. Ask yourself, is it worth sacrificing the kid emotionally because you don’t want to bother with it or you don’t want to spend the money?

I know this seems harsh. But I wouldn’t be putting it out there if I had not seen it with my own eyes.

Finally, always include them in the pictures. For this period of time, for the same reason as the presents, include them in the pictures. They are part of your family; even if it’s not for forever. Can you imagine the embarrassment they would feel at the exclusion?

They are your family and should be treated as such.

Sincerely,

Kris