Westside Family Church has been providing Christmas gifts to area children in foster care for the past 7 years. What started out as a humble ask for 200 Christmas gifts for a single agency in one county has turned into an outreach that extends to more than 2000 children in care in Kansas, across multiple agencies and counties! Currently, 7600 children are in Foster Care across the state of Kansas.
In addition to gifts for individual children, 300 area foster and adoptive families will also receive the gift of a family night in the form of gift cards to family activities such as zoo passes, movie tickets, bowling and more as well as restaurant gift cards.
"Foster care is something that affects the whole family and we want to make sure the families are celebrated this Christmas as well".
Jen Decker, foster adoption ministry director for WFC.
Behind every child in foster care and every foster family is a social worker who works tirelessly to meet the complex needs of the children and families they serve. There are more then 300 social workers who work with children in Wyandotte and Johnson Counties alone. Westside has taken it a step further to ensure that each social worker also gets a gift card and a handwritten note to encourage them in their work this Christmas.
"The social workers are so encouraged to get these notes and these gifts, it isn't often that anyone thinks of them and the difficulty of their job"
While providing Christmas Gifts is nice and needed, the needs of the 7600 children in Kansas Foster care require individuals to do more. For example recent numbers from Kansas Department of Children and Families indicate that in Wyandotte County there are 689 children are in foster care but there are only 116 licensed foster homes, and in the state in general the number of children in care far exceeds the number of licensed foster homes. In addition to families for these children we need people engaging to prevent children from coming into care by providing supports to parents before they find themselves in crisis, to people mentoring youth who are preparing to age-out of the foster care system.
Westsiders were encouraged to come and learn ways to "GO BEYOND THE GIFT" and more than 80 people took next steps towards the various opportunities.
"I think what we are seeing is a shift, we have been caring for these kids and these families for 7 years now and the problem isn't going away. Many of us are tired of sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to care about these kids. The time to act is now, and there are dozens of ways to do it, we are just trying to help people connect with the organizations doing this work effectively in our community and we feel feel hopeful that we can make a difference far beyond providing a gift this Christmas."