Bittersweet Holidays

Throughout the year, I deal with the huge disparity between the wonderful client-families and the foster children that I photograph. The foster children who I think of, in many ways, as “my kids.”

But it’s never worse than around holiday time.  That’s when the devastating differences are most glaring.  Like when I find out (unfortunately, after the fact), that one of my kids has been kicked out of foster care, after living in a crap foster home for many years; left with no support system and no place to go on Thanksgiving.

That’s when I find out that another of my kids, who is about to age out, is so overwhelmed that he could not see his way clear to accept the invitation of his caring mentors.  That’s when I most struggle as I watch what my kids post on Facebook about the day-to-day drama in their lives, much of which is typical teenage drama, but experienced without the caring parents to help them to get through it.

And sadly, this year, that’s when I find out that the group mentoring program (Fairfax Families4kids) that has made such a difference in the lives of the children who participate has been relegated to a boiler plate request for proposal in an attempt to farm it out to a vendor who may or may not see the tremendous value in the existing aspects of the program.

So this time of year is bittersweet for me, moments of pure joy and happiness for an annual shoot with children I have watched grow up and new kids I’m meeting for the first time. All kids who I see with loving parent/s and who tell me about the upcoming holidays when they will see grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more.  And pets (like my own two beagles) who have lives that are often better than the children in foster care.

And moments of pure sadness, when I am reminded of how hard life can be by one of my wonderful kids who was moved from one foster home to another. When I asked him how it was going, he replied, “Good.  I’m hungry all the time, but they are fair.”

So as I put together holiday images for my wonderful client-families it’s not without a few tears of  joy for those the happy smiling families with much look forward to and with  painful sadness for the children who will spend yet another holiday alone. In a group home. In a residential treatment facility. In a foster home. Children who are often overlooked and forgotten. Children who exist all over the country and all over the world.

If you are interested in getting involved with children in foster care through mentoring, adoption, fostering or doing what I do, making sure that they have pictures that show them that they matter, that someone cared enough to capture their image – here are a few links to get you started.   Wednesday’s Child – Look  for sweet Jarred (NY) – who I photographed a few weeks ago.   Fairfax Families4kids, creating long-term relationships and connections for children who likely would otherwise age of of foster care alone.

But, during this holiday season, please also celebrate some of the wonderful families I photographed this year. Families that come in all shapes, sizes and configurations.

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3 Responses to Bittersweet Holidays

  1. Tammy Kennon says:

    Beautiful, Joan. You have a heart as big as the universe. Every child you meet is richer for it. xoxo

  2. cynthia says:

    Joan,

    Thank you for sharing. Your story and photos are beautiful.

  3. Cindy says:

    Children are spoke of in our world as gifts, precious, the greatest source of joy in our life. Our most treasured experience of love will come with contact and a relationship with a child, if it be our own child or birthed by someone else. They are beings on this earth that forever will change our lives when we let them into their hearts. Presidents today, and for years before, have pointed toward children as our future, the leaders of our tomorrow. What value people both famous and not, Presidents and world leaders, from now to the years past, have placed on children. What we know to be true is, like flowers needing sun and water to root in the soil, children need attention and love to root in this world. We should remember this season to find our way to be a child’s sunshine and in whatever way we can, bring a child whatever it needs to assist in his or her’s ability to thrive.

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