Picture yourself at home for the holidays, the smells of dinner coming from the kitchen, the sound of laughter throughout the house, family members on the sofa watching TV. Perhaps old friends are coming by for a visit - maybe gifts will be exchanged. You're surrounded by people who love you.
Now imagine that none of that exists. Imagine how that would feel. Imagine how that would impact a child.
The New York Foundling has placed thousands of children in stable and loving foster homes over our long history. Brett is one of these young people. In foster care for many years, he found it hard to form long-lasting relationships and became weary of trusting adults. As he transitioned into different foster homes, he started to believe that parental-figures never stuck around for long.
Then he was placed with Juliana and everything changed. Juliana, who believes that in a family, "you've got to be there for each other no matter what," and that family means "love, caring and support," was finally able to give Brett the home he always needed. He calls Juliana mom and views her as his one and only mother. He has "aunts" and "uncles" and a family that treasures him as much as he treasures them.
Today, at age 20 and in college, Brett feels that family "doesn't have to be blood. Family is a bond you share with an individual, or many individuals." "When I was younger," he says, "when I heard the word family, I used to envy it. Now when I hear the word family, it just brings a smile to my face."
Brett and his foster family have a great deal to be thankful for this holiday season.
For those of us who work at the New York Foundling, the holidays are an extraordinary time. We all feel blessed to be able to look at young people like Brett and realize that we've made a difference in his life. Whether it involves children in the foster care system, or young people caught up in the juvenile justice system, or families in crisis, The Foundling works every day to make children safe, to keep families together and to give youngsters a better future.
But this holiday season, our minds and our hearts turn to the many children who still need our help. Every day, we hear tragic stories of abuse and neglect, of adults with serious issues whose children are suffering. We see young people failing in the educational system and ending up in the criminal justice system - or homeless, or on drugs.
As we gather with our own families this holiday season, I hope you will join me in recommitting to doing more to help the many children and families who are not as fortunate as us. If Brett's story moves you, I ask you to visit www.nyfoundling.org and learn more about our important work.