Celebrating youth in foster care during the holidays
For some, the holiday season can be rough. This can especially be the case for youth in foster care. Thankfully, there are numerous organizations who work to bring holiday joy to these youth. Throughout the state, staff at the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) work with Alaska Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Guardians ad Litem, community partners and various businesses to maximize gift giving efforts, and to ensure youth receive a special gift for the holidays.
In the Northern Region, OCS staff specifically worked with the CASAs on their annual Fill the Stocking donation drive. This year they were able to fill and deliver more than 80 stockings to current and former youth in foster care. Youth received personalized stockings with a wide variety of items and gift cards with the help of Friends of Alaska CASA.
Alaska Integrated Media's Pump up the Kids is a holiday gift drive for Anchorage and the Southcentral Regions focused on delivering gifts to current youth in foster care. OCS staff in both Anchorage and Southcentral work tirelessly to identify youth, collect their wish lists and then work with the local radio stations and businesses to ensure as many youth as possible receive gifts from their wish list. Gifts are delivered to OCS for sorting, wrapping and delivery. While the earthquake impacted the level of donations, this year in Anchorage 140 youth received gifts through the generosity of this program. Also, Anchorage youth that are not eligible for Pump up the Kids were invited to a special Young Lives holiday party. Young Lives is a faith-based community organization that has long supported youth in foster care and parenting youth.
Special Santa is a program in the Mat-Su Valley where donations are solicited year round. While it’s available to the public, OCS staff focus the donations to youth that are otherwise ineligible for Pump up the Kids.
OCS’s Education and Training Voucher Program, through the Child Welfare Academy, hosted a holiday party for youth in foster care in college. They also collected and delivered gifts for youth in college or at a vocational training school.
Facing Foster Care in Alaska does an annual laptop donation holiday drive, and partnering with OCS Independent Living Program, they also hosted holiday parties across the state for current and former youth in foster care.
Juneau Floyd Dryden Middle School students and faculty collected a tremendous amount of toys and donated them to 17 youth in foster care in the Juneau area.
Thank you to everyone and every program who helped to support these youth during the holidays!
Stephany Day, Youth Independent Living Specialist (OCS) and Monica Hinson-Wilson, Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA) Youth Leadership Board Southeast Representative, get ready for the Southeast Regional FFCA/OCS holiday party.