Each year, more than 500,000 children spend the holidays in foster care. In some cases the holidays may be spent with extended family, but more often it is spent with foster families to whom children are not related, or in group homes or institutional settings. Although foster care is an important safety net for children who have suffered abuse or neglect, being in foster care is not always easy. The holiday season is often particularly difficult for children who are wards of the state, and who range in age from infants to teenagers.
During the holidays, most children in foster care are separated from their families, including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even brothers and sisters. At a time when “family” is at the heart of gatherings for dinner, gift exchanges and joining together to watch parades and sports events on television, these children are often disconnected from family members who could make the holidays the special event that they should be. For many of these children, this holiday will not be the first holiday that they have spent in foster care without their families. On average, foster youth have been in foster care 28.6 months—a time period that spans at least two holiday seasons.