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Program gives foster youth chance to celebrate the holidays | News | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey




The Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) has the Giving Tree Program, which provides people and businesses within Arizona a chance to spread holiday cheer and give to children in foster care.

 




The Arizona Department of Child Safety’s Giving Tree Program provides people and businesses within Arizona a chance to spread holiday cheer and give to children in foster care. 

“It’s a way for the community to join us and help make the holidays brighter for kids and youth in foster care,” said Rayetta Sanchez, community liaison for the Department of Child Safety (DCS). 

The program was started eight years ago by one of Sanchez’s coworkers, who aged out of foster care and spent some Christmases alone as she didn’t have any family. She was inspired to create a way to both support other youth aging out of foster care with no family connections and ensure that they have a nice holiday season.

“We started putting together something similar to an Angel Tree, where we had the kids’ names and ages and what they were waiting for (for) the holidays. We set up a little tree in the office and people would shop for those kids, and then it just started growing,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez helped the first year, eventually taking over the program with another colleague. From there, according to Sanchez, they added kids who are in foster care and kinship care. 

She noted that this program is different from any other toy drive she has participated in, as people in the community have the opportunity to not only buy something for a specific child, but gift them an item that they are requesting for the holidays. 

“So, it really makes it personal, and it really makes it special. We’re always hoping that it puts a smile on a child’s face and just makes them feel loved,” Sanchez said. 

Da’Via Rogers is a former foster youth who participated in the Giving Tree Program, and she expressed how heartwarming it was to be a part of as a youth who was separated from her parents for almost six years.

“It was nice to have that support during the holidays in a time where everyone else gets to be with their family. It makes you feel really sad as a foster care child to be like, ‘well, my family isn’t around,’” Rogers said.

“But to have some random people, people with generous hearts give you what you wanted for Christmas, it makes you feel like someone cares about you.” 

Rogers emphasized that the program is a beautiful way for the community to interact with one another, as well as a wonderful way to help children who feel forgotten and to have, as she put it, “that moment of glorious purpose where it’s like someone cares about me, I should still do this.”



Giving Tree Program 5.jpg

The Arizona Department of Child Safety’s Giving Tree Program provides people and businesses within Arizona a chance to spread holiday cheer and give to children in foster care. 

 




Currently, Sanchez has about 100 community partners throughout Arizona and last year was able to give 4,500 foster kids gifts. She said that this year it looks like the program will be able to reach over 5,000 foster kids.

She shared that it is “such an honor” to be a part of and work on the Giving Tree Program.

“The importance of it is to help these kids that have been through trauma feel loved and significant during a time of the year that can be very difficult for them,” Sanchez said. 

“Especially if they’re not with their family for the holidays. This is a way to just tell them, ‘somebody loves you’ and ‘you’re not forgotten at the holidays.’”

Sanchez would like to see more businesses and individuals get involved in the program and help. She understands that not everyone can adopt or foster a child, but everybody can help in some way — and the Giving Tree Program is an amazing way to do that.

There are different ways for Arizonans and businesses to get involved. To express interest, there is a web form and they can also send an email to Sanchez, and in response she will send them information on the program.

“I just think it’s a really fun way for the community to get involved and really make a difference in a child’s life during the holidays,” Sanchez said. 

 

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