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Foster Children Under Extra Stress at Christmas



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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Somewhere this Christmas, a child will be confused and frightened and feeling very alone…having just been taken from his or her home and placed with a foster family.  But there are a group of volunteers who try to make the holidays brighter for those children.  One of the volunteers is a former foster child.

Ten years ago, Chloe Walker was just a few weeks into her stay at what would be her permanent foster home. She says she was free from an abusive stepfather, but terribly homesick for her mom.

WALKER: Dealing with it as a child was a burden alone, but then speaking with my mother over the phone and hearing what she was going through and she was trying to be strong and not show emotions, but you know, sometimes, the tears would slip out."  

Adding to the stress was the unknown of Christmas with a new family in a new place.  She missed her mother's traditions.

WALKER: "Christmas eve, we always got to open up one present…and it was pajamas."

There would be no more pajamas.  Her mother passed away the following spring. 

Today, Chloe is 24, and is working hard to help today's foster children have a better Christmas. 

She is an Americorps volunteer.  Last year, she started an educational outreach to social workers in Sacramento County so that they would better understand the feelings and emotions of the children in foster care at the holidays.  This year, she's talking with foster kids.

WALKER: "I realized we need to educate the kids about this and empower them, because sometimes, they don't connect what current behaviors they're having to being holiday struggles"

Sacramento County Social workers are helping personalize the holidays with their Gifts From the Heart program.  They match gifts from 200 sources with the wish lists of 3,000 kids.  Judy Beck is a social worker.  She says the right Christmas gift can give a child hope…and something to hold onto."

BECK:  One girl who is a chronic awoler.  She leaves placement a lot and then comes back and then leaves and comes back.  One year, Gifts From the Heart gave her three disposable cameras and a photo album.  No matter where that girl goes?  That goes with her."

Chloe Walker hopes that girl will follow her path and work towards a four-year degree.  She plans to make a career of advocating for foster kids.

To find out more about Gifts From the Heart, click here.

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