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Re-Imagining Holiday Giving

Pairing Traditional Gift-Giving with Soul-Filling Gifts that Transform Lives

As the holidays approach, many of us begin thinking about how we are going to help children in need. We add to our growing Christmas list items such as toys, clothes, and toiletry items that we will donate—hoping to make a difference in the life of a child who won’t get the Christmas our children will experience.

Gifts can bring joy, smiles, and a sense of being seen and known. It’s also important to recognize that there’s another, often overlooked, gift that can truly transform the lives of these children and their families – transformative therapy services. Both material and healing services can work together to bring families the true magic of Christmas and lasting, positive change. 

Gifts can be a source of immense happiness for children in foster care or those who have found their forever homes through adoption. They provide them with a sense of belonging and inclusion, allowing them to experience the joy of childhood.

But picture with me a new holiday season where, for the first time, families in need also receive support to address the unique challenges they face.

Imagine a holiday where the tags on those giving trees in schools and churches don’t only dangle from toys but from the promise of evidence-based, trauma-responsive therapeutic services. Services that don’t just make children happy for a moment but that heal and offer hope for a lifetime.

Most toys have an average lifespan of only six months, and thus, the lifecycle of a toy is short-lived. In comparison, therapeutic healing services last a lifetime and will forever affect children and their families—breaking harmful generational cycles. 

Behind this impactful gift of healing lies a pressing need for mental health care within foster families. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, up to 80 percent of children in foster care grapple with significant mental health issues, starkly contrasting the approximately 18-22 percent seen in the general population. With over 391,000 children and youth in foster care, cognitive and behavioral health is the most considerable unmet health need for these vulnerable individuals. 

Factors contributing to the mental and behavioral health challenges faced by children and youth in foster care include a history of complex trauma, frequently changing situations and transitions, broken family relationships, inconsistent and inadequate access to mental health services, and the over-prescription of psychotropic medications, as reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Trauma-responsive therapeutic services, delivered by dedicated professionals, go beyond the ordinary. They offer children who’ve faced unimaginable hardships a real chance to heal, grow, and thrive. They extend a hand and a lifeline to kids who’ve weathered life’s harshest storms. 

The key to truly making a difference is balancing traditional gift-giving and introducing transformative therapy services. The two are not mutually exclusive; they can coexist to offer the best of both worlds. Traditional gifts bring immediate joy and excitement and play a crucial role in nurturing a child’s sense of happiness. At the same time, healing services provide the essential support systems that help children build brighter futures.

So, as we come together with our loved ones this holiday season, let’s embrace adding to gift-giving a new tradition that gives foster children the gift of healing and hope. Our generosity can genuinely transform lives, and the magic of this season is not only found in the boxes under the tree but in the enduring impact we make on those who need it most. 

Join us in redefining the spirit of giving, where we share something powerful, something that genuinely changes lives. Together, we can change the trajectory of a child’s life and, in doing so, change the world. Let’s both fill a stocking and a soul this holiday season by giving the gift of healing guided by compassion and connection.

This holiday season, I invite you and your church family to consider adding to your giving tree a small stocking to help “fill a soul” where you can donate funds to help supply therapeutic services to these children. By doing so, we can further amplify the transformative power of healing and create a brighter, more promising future for foster children. Let’s change the world one act of kindness at a time!

About Jenni Lord

Jenni Lord is the CEO of Chosen, a leading nonprofit dedicated to supporting children and youth in overcoming trauma by creating strong, stable relationships within foster, kinship, adoptive, and reunified families. Influenced by her own experiences, Jenni leads Chosen in empowering families impacted by the child welfare system. Her advocacy extends to policy reform and addressing critical system-wide issues. A passionate advocate for healing through connection, she inspires others with her vision for family restoration and systemic transformation.

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