PHOENIX – The holidays can be a difficult time for children in foster care as they struggle with the emotions that come with being away from their families.
But each year, the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) employees pitch in to make the holidays special for them.
“It touches my heart to see DCS staff and the community partner together year after year to bring joy to children during this special time of year,” said DCS Director Greg McKay.
The Department held several events over the past few weeks to spread holiday cheer for children in foster care.
Throughout November and early December, DCS offices and community partners participated in the Department’s third annual Giving Tree program.
The program allows DCS staff and community members to sponsor youth in DCS care.
Participants in the program pick a “leaf” from a “giving tree” which contains the wish list for a child in foster care. They then drop off their presents at a DCS office and staff delivers them to the children.
This year over 960 children received a gift through the program, more than double from the previous year.
Last year, 416 children received gifts.
“It has been amazing to see this program grow and to see such thoughtfulness and caring put into the gifts from both DCS and our community supporters,” said DCS Independent Living Development Coordinator Shannon Clayton, who coordinated the program. “Every year, our staff and community amaze me with their generosity for these youth.”
The program allows staff and the community to touch the lives of children in foster care, not only through the material gift, but through personal messages that can accompany it.
“It was a great present, but the best gift of all was the words you wrote,” said one youth who received a personal note along with her gift. “Your words stuck in my mind, and I was inspired. I keep your card in the back of the sketchbook, and I must have read it over a dozen times, letting the words sink in. Your card was beautiful, I hope one day I can make a child feel as inspired with art as you have inspired me.”
DCS expanded the program this year to include young adults over 18 who are enrolled in the Independent Living Program and kinship placements.
Special thanks to Maricopa County Courts, Pima Federal Credit Union, Prisma Graphic, Lane Terralever, BMO Harris Financial Advisors, Jabs Boxing Gym for Women, Penguin Air & Plumbing, Century Link, Diona, Arizona’s Children Association and DCS employees for their contributions to the Giving Tree project.