Operation Christmas Stocking

LOVE for kids in care

2020 Operation Christmas Child Flyer

Since 2015, our church has partnered with the Shelby County Foster Parent Association (SCFPA) to provide Christmas stocking gifts to each of the teens/young adults in foster care in our county. We started this project simply to serve some of the most vulnerable and overlooked among us: foster youth here in central AL. Since 2015, our church families have learned a lot about the realities of foster kids and families in our area simply by taking part in this very special ministry.

Want to serve with us this year? Here's how. On November 1, we will display "stockings" in our foyer with the first name, gender, age, and some gift ideas for a teen/young adult (usually ages 12 - 22) in foster care in our county. We encourage each CCC family to choose at least one young person to shop for this holiday season. Return your items in a grocery sack/bag (no need to wrap them) to the church by November 30, and we'll deliver all the gifts to the Shelby County Foster Parent Association and the social workers, who will deliver the stockings to the kids by Christmas. Complete instructions will be included on a flyer, and those will be available in the foyer starting November 1.

Each year, we've sponsored 40-60 stockings, and we have 70 this year. COVID-19 has changed the way some of us can shop; if you're unable to visit a store to shop, please consider a financial sponsorship by contacting the church. Since your purchased items will not be given to the teens right away, we feel confident to safely move ahead with Operation Christmas Stocking this year.

For more information or details, please contact Caroline Dempsey (caro.demps@gmail.com).

The Shelby County Foster Parent Association also provides detailed Christmas wish lists for each infant/child/young adult in foster care. Often, local businesses or churches sponsor these lists. If you're interested in doing more to help foster kids in our area, follow the SCFPA's Facebook page or visit their website.

FAQs

Why teens in foster care?

Many area churches and organizations give financially or assist the Shelby County Foster Parent Association (SCFPA) in preparing Christmas gifts for foster kids each year. Groups usually prefer to shop for young children (infants through age 12). This leaves the older teens and young adults in need of sponsorship. So, we've decided to pursue doing stockings for this particular age group.

How did this start?

Read our background story here.

What does "group home, residential facility, independent living, or kinship care" mean?

The teens are typically listed as being in one of the following placement categories: foster home, group home, relative/kinship care, therapeutic foster home, residential facility, hospital, dorm room, or independent living.

Typical foster homes include a licensed adult(s) caring for one or more foster kids.

Group homes contain several foster teens/youth living under the supervision of a licensed social worker or youth caretaker.

Some kids are listed as living with a relative/kinship care. This means the teen is currently living with a relative who may have been given temporary custody in lieu of the child's parents.

Therapeutic foster homes are led by specially-trained foster parents or social workers who are able to care for specific behavioral, physical or emotional needs.

Sometimes, the teens may be listed as living in a residential facility, hospital, or other medical center. This means the teen is undergoing specific treatment and care that one of these centers can provide.

A few teens live independently, either in their own apartment, dorm room or house. These young people still receive support from the state, thus we are including them in our Christmas stocking program.

Can I write a letter or note to the teen I chose?

You can certainly write a letter or include a Christmas card from your family to the teen/young adult you're buying for. Keep in mind, it is not appropriate to pursue communication with a minor (child under 18), and many of the teens may not wish to respond to your letter/note. Having said that, if your teen is above 18, he/she may choose to communicate with you.

Do these teens have other needs/wants for Christmas?

Yes. The Shelby County Foster Parent Association maintains a list of "wish list items" for most of the kids/teens/young adults in foster care in our county. Contact them to get details on making a larger contribution toward a child's Christmas wishes.

Can I meet the teen I'm shopping for?

Since many are under age 18, it is not appropriate to meet them or request a meeting. Each teen/young adult may have different feelings or reactions to living in foster care, and we wish to be sensitive to these feelings. While carrying out Operation Christmas Stocking, you will not know the full name or living location of the child you're shopping for; this is out of an abundance of love and a wish to keep each teen as safe as possible.

Helena and Shelby County are small, interconnected communities. If you happen to meet a teen/young person in care, consider asking to hear his/her story. Listen patiently, love wisely, and allow them to share their own story.

Can I get more info on the teen I'm shopping for?

Caroline Dempsey can possibly get more info, if needed. Or, contact the church and the OCS organizer will assist you.

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