Before my kids were in elementary school, I found solace and support in local groups for mothers I’d met through Meetup and other forums. They were touted as play groups for the kids but that was a lie we told ourselves. Over the years we formed many friendships between families, but one of the best things that my former mothers’ group did was work with Seeraj Family Homes during the holidays. We worked together to provide Christmas gifts for 35-50 youths each year at a time when our group only had about 30 active members.
What is Seeraj Exactly?
There are over 5,000 children in foster care in the state of Alabama. Seeraj is a foster home for children that has offices in Alabama, Maryland, Nebraska and Washington, D.C. It is meant to be a temporary placement for kids while issues in their own families are worked out.
The kids we provided gifts for were those that did not have a permanent placement. Many had been shuffled from home to home, sometimes with several different placements in a year. They were connected with foster families who took generous care of them. The presents we gave were also items that actually belonged to the children; many of these kids did not have their own clothes or toys. They borrowed items from the foster home or from the families where they were placed. The items gave a sense of permanency to the kids. It might not sound like much, but to a child that has been given very little, every little thing counted.
When the group first tackled the lists from the children, we were immediately both optimistic and heartbroken. Some of the children asked for very little – a couple of small toys, basics like socks and underwear that their foster parents undoubtedly encouraged to be included on the list. We were confused because there were teens as young as 15 and 16 requesting infant clothing and toys until it dawned on us that some of the teens in foster care were already mothers themselves. Some children asked for big ticket items such as bikes or iPods. We all worked together to cover each and every item on the list, and then some. The small children that had only asked for a couple toy cars were given books, backpacks, art supplies and anything else we could get our hands on. Some ladies sponsored individual children, others donated gift cards used to fill in the gaps on lists and some donated random collections of goodies that could be divided among the remaining children. Our mission was to give the foster children a tiny bit of happiness in this uncertain time in their lives during the holiday season.
Giving Goes Both Ways
Throughout this process many of us involved our own children. We asked them to come with us to the store to pick out toys that they thought kids their age would like. We asked their opinions about clothes and we blinked back tears when our kids questioned us about why we were out buying so many things for children we’ve never met. Our throats tightened when our kids continued with their barrage of questions. Why don’t they have parents right now? Who takes care of them? Do they miss their moms? Will they ever go home? Does Santa know where to leave their gifts if they move a lot? We didn’t have all the answers and we told our kids a big, scary truth – that there are children out there in our own city that suffer. There are children who move from home to home through no fault of their own when the grown-ups make mistakes and need time to correct them. There are children in our community who only own the clothes they had on their backs the night they entered into foster care.
My son James, now 11, reflected on the years he spent helping me shop for Seeraj children. He told me he wished we could go back and buy them more stuffed animals. “It’s important for kids in foster care to have stuffed animals because they can make them happy when they’re lonely. They will have something to cuddle with at night,” he explained.
Passing the Seeraj Torch To You
While the days are long and the years are fast, we only have a finite amount of time that our children will want to help us and watch us give. Sometimes we only have a finite time with playgroups as well. Our group slowly fell apart as members moved, divorced, or outgrew friendships that had been solidified in the solidarity of surviving the whirlwind toddler and preschool years. Sadly, we no longer have enough active members of our group to continue the tradition of sponsoring the foster children of Seeraj for the holidays. But our years of working with this organization was not for naught.
We all share the memories of running through superstores as closing time neared with carts piled high for children we will never lay eyes on. We will remember the wrapping parties where we gathered and organized hundreds of items and then reflected that this mountain of gifts was beautiful. As mothers, we know that our work with Seeraj was important and that what we accomplished as a team during those short years, and the happiness we brought to foster children in Huntsville for four years, was nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
Seeraj Family Homes Details
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