Monday, November 28, 2011

Ghosts of Holidays Past

One of my favorite movies in college was “A Muppet Christmas Carol.

As a former foster child, I could relate to Scrooge’s need to come to terms with Christmases of the Past, to find a place to belong in Christmas Present, and to summon up the courage to face Christmases of the Future.

I believe that this is a journey that continues for all of us…

I can still remember the 14-year-old girl I once was, living in an all-girls group home, and facing Christmas without family. My father was abusive and often absent. My mother’s death had left a void in my life that had yet to be filled.

To quote from my journal at the time: “Peering out from frost-covered glass, I feel a chill on my face as gusts of fresh wind bursts through the open window. It’s tough to face the fact that my own father chose not to visit me – that sharp sting of abandonment. My heart feels the bitter taste of winter’s emptiness. I squint my eyes to stare at the falling snow, noticing how each individual snowflake falls from the sky in its solitary travel; separate, isolated and alone.”

However as Albert Camus once pointed out:

Warmth insisted on making its way into my winter holidays -- particularly the Christmas when I was 16 years old…

The snow outside was white and pure, as I walked through the door of the main gathering area of the co-ed group home. The room was filled with a multitude of gifts, donated by members of a church somewhere in our county. Some of the packages had my name on them.

I opened up each of my presents, one by one, and stared at my brand-new blue jeans, white sneakers and assortment of colorful shirts. Whoever bought these clothes somehow knew my favorite colors: red, pink, turquoise and indigo-blue. Over the years, I’d grown accustomed to hand-me-down clothing; I typically borrowed clothes from my roommates or raided the charity boxes.

“Do they do this for us every year?” I asked my roommate incredulously.

“Yeah. They start saving up in January and put away money all year until the beginning of December. The group home sends them a list of things we need.”

I stared at the huddle of figures in the periphery of the room. The men wore work-worn overalls, embellished with holes. The women were equally without embellishment – no make-up, plain clothes.

“I hope they have enough money left for their own kids. It doesn’t look like they could afford to pay for all this stuff.” I commented.

A woman standing across the room caught my eye and smiled gently.

My roommate hissed in my ear. “Shut up, Lisa. They might hear you.”

“Okay, okay.” I stole another glance over at the strangers in the corner. Their selflessness astounded me. What did they do this? Why sacrifice for us? My own father didn’t send any Christmas presents to me.

As I exited the gathering that day, my arms filled with gifts I had received, the air outside was crisp and clean. My breath rose in a smoky haze. My new coat enveloped me, surrounding me with a feeling of warmth. For one brief moment, I felt cherished and secure.

That day, for me, was an integral experience in my life –one of many such seeds for the future that make me who I am today. Long after I had fought to build a future for myself and successfully established a marriage and family of my own, this snapshot from the past remained.

This particular experience helped me survive in that moment, and I am determined that its legacy will carry on…

This vision is at the heart of why Ohio foster care alumni take #ACTION to partner with our allies to host multiple Thanksgiving Events for foster care teens and young adults every year...

There are moments in our life when we have the opportunity to step outside of our comfort zone to make a difference. As we look back upon our lives, we can each remember those special people who went the extra mile in our lives – and how their actions continue to make each and every one of us who we are. As Scrooge discovered in the Muppet Christmas Carol: “It’s true, wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

We cannot save the entire world – but we can save some. We can and should continue to invest in our young people in and from foster care. We can offer them the gift of our love, encouragement, and empowerment. We can provide them with hope in this moment, and education regarding available resources that can help to pave the way for their future. Inasmuch as it depends on us, we can provide them with a “summer of the soul in December.”

We should expect nothing less from ourselves and one another.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Celebrating each of the three FCAA Ohio Thanksgivings... one by one...

The second annual FCAA NE OH Thanksgiving Dinner for Foster Care Teens and Emancipated Youth once again captured the heart of what this event is all about… 

Reminding those who have experienced foster care personally that they always have a seat at our table. 

That it is an honor for us to stay in touch with them, as they enter into young adulthood, find their places in this world, and move beyond the shadows of their past to build bright futures and families of their own.

We want our young people to know that their voices, talents, insights and mutual encouragement are what lies at the heart of this celebration…

Many thanks to each of event sponsor and volunteer for your role in hosting a Thanksgiving celebration that fulfills its purpose, and has our young people eager to return each year.

Words are simply not enough to express my gratitude.


Lisa Dickson,

2011 FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving Reunions

A place where foster care teens, emancipated youth and adult alumni are always welcome.
Having experienced foster care ourselves, we know that holidays can be difficult.
Let's come together - share our strength and insights, rejoice in how far we have come.
Let's encourage one another for the next step in the journey....

Every year since 2007, Thanksgiving has been a time for Ohio foster care youth (ages 16+), alumni and allies/adult supporters to gather together.

This year, the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni held three Thanksgiving events, with help from our valued supporters:


The Southwest Ohio Thanksgiving took place in Dayton:
  • Saturday, November 19, 2011, from 1:00 - 3:30 pm
  • Salem Church of God, 6500 Southway Road, Clayton, OH 45318
Lead Facilitator: Michelle Conklin
Primary Sponsor: New Family Tree
Catering Sponsor: Jerri's Catering and Family Restaurant 
Additional Sponsors: Majestic Nursery, Salem Student Ministry, Wendy's Wonderful Kids, and the Meet Me Halfway Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
Pumpkin Decorations: Val Bairnsfather


The Northeast Ohio Thanksgiving took place in Cleveland:
Lead Facilitator: Zelma Brown
Sponsors include: Cuyahoga County Children Services, National Council of Jewish Woman: Cleveland SectionAntioch Baptist Church, Adoption Network Cleveland, and Village Network


The Central/Southeast Ohio Thanksgiving took place in Columbus:
  • Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, from 1-3:00 pm
  • Capital University - Harry C. Moores Campus Center, 745 Pleasant Ridge Ave., Bexley OH 43209
Lead Facilitator: Bethany Koshinsky
Sponsors include: Capital University President Bowman's Office, Village Network and Capital University student organizations and Campus Ministries, and the Koshinsky family


The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America wants to express our appreciation, once more to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, for their generous donation towards the cost of all three FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving Events.