Today’s post is written by Sara Brueck Nichols, Director of PR for Operation Kids
On the national news this morning was a story that broke my heart – Gary Staton dropped his 9 children off at a Nebraska hospital under the state’s “safe haven” laws, and walked away. What happens next? They’re in temporary state custody, in foster care. They have relatives who are making arrangements to care for them.
As gut-wrenching and tragic as the story is, I am grateful to know that they have family who will take them in and raise them and love them.
I’ve thought about it all morning as I’ve worked to finish this week’s blog. There are times when you learn things that hit you with such force the wind is nearly knocked out of you. That is exactly what happened to me when I learned the harrowing statistics that surround foster kids who “age out” of the system because they have nowhere else to go. There is no family to take them in or adopt them and eventually they legally become adults, regardless of whether or not they have the skills to actually be adults. And they are on their own.
They are faced with almost insurmountable challenges as they try to navigate the difficulties of adulthood, including incarceration, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, mental illness, poverty, homelessness and suicide. With no one to help them, many of them return to abusive situations or end up homeless on the streets. (Source: Christmas Box Lifestart Initiative)
Richard Paul Evan’s new book Grace hits the local market tomorrow and the national market next week. As part of the book’s launch, his nonprofit organization, The Christmas Box International, is expanding its Christmas Box Lifestart Initiative program. It is a four-step program designed to help foster kids who age out of the system. The first step, the focus right now, is working to get a Lifestart Kit with all the basic necessities of living on one’s own into the hands of every one of the more than 24,000 teens who age out of foster care each year. They are the Forgotten Children – kids who have been victims of the choices of others, circumstances beyond their control, left to survive on their own.
We at Operation Kids became involved in it because we truly believe that there is so much good to be accomplished in the Lifestart program. We wanted to help spread the message nationwide – to facilitate action. This is something with a pre-defined number, close to home, where you can look and say, “It is working. I’m making a visible impact.” We believe in it so much, we are offering to MATCH EVERY DONATION, dollar for dollar, to DOUBLE the impact.
It’s nothing more than helping to give these teens the same start you give your son or daughter when he or she leaves for college – starting with the same basic necessities – sheets, towels, pots and pans, dishes, silverware.
I believe in this program. I believe in the impact it can make if everyone says, “count me in.” I believe these kids – good people who had a lousy hand dealt them – are poised for greatness, with just a little support.
I believe that this is a case where every one of us can make a big difference with a very small effort.
Note: for more on the Christmas Box Lifestart Initiative, click here.