For many people, Christmas is the most joyous time of year. But for some children in the foster care system, this is anything but a time of joy. Many of them have no family to go home to.
But one organization is working to change that.
“I always loved the idea of drinking hot cocoa by the fire, and watching Christmas movies,” says Tyangela Barksdale. “But the reality is, you don’t have that.”
Barksdale, 22, has been in foster care since she was about seven.
My mother and father were both drug addicts and never had custody of me,” Barksdale says. “When my grandmother couldn’t take care of me anymore, I got into the foster care system. I lived with some extended family and friends for awhile. From the very beginning, I was moved around a lot. I never felt wanted. It’s hard growing up knowing your parents aren’t there for you, and wondering if there’s a family that will genuinely let you into their home and be okay with it.”
Once Barksdale turned 18, she found Lad Lake. The organization is basically an emergency room of the child welfare system. It offers housing, therapy, financial assistance, education opportunities, and support programs for children and young adults of all ages.
This week, the organization held a Christmas party for everyone they serve. All the kids got presents and a holiday meal. There were holiday craft-making and music, along with a visit by Santa Clause.
“I feel like these people are my family,” Barksdale says. “It’s like being around genuine people who care about you. I feel like I’m finally in the right place at the right time, and I don’t have to be alone.”
Just this year in Wisconsin, as many as 450 foster kids turned 18 without being adopted.