23 Nov Thanksgiving Brings Foster Youth and Alumni Together
At Foster Care Alumni of America, we want to ensure that people in and from foster care can experience the connection and love that most people get from their families. This Thanksgiving, alumni around the country are organizing reunions over the holidays to build their own traditions. On Saturday, the Illinois chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America organized their Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Dinner in Chicago, in collaboration with Be Strong Families, the Office of the Public Guardian, UCAN, and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. More than 100 people came out for the event.
James McIntyre, co-founder of the Illinois chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, shared why he helps host this Thanksgiving gathering year after year.
“Even though we left the system without a permanent connection, there are still people who care and want to be family. … We come together to enjoy each other’s company but also to help build connections with youth currently in care, because we see the impact it has in their lives. Our chapter is focused on making sure that youth in care and alumni know that we are there 100 percent of the time.”
Misty Stenslie, an original founder of Foster Care Alumni of America who began the tradition of alumni reunions, explained why coming together for the holidays is so important.
“Our society is built around families, and when you grow up without one, it is so easy to feel isolated and different. The need for a family doesn’t disappear once you hit adulthood … We need a place to go for the holidays, and for that unshakable identity and feeling of belonging no matter what is happening. By coming together with others who share the foster care experience and finding the kinship in each other as brothers and sisters, we are making our own families and taking a stand for the ones who come after us in foster care.”
As each one of us prepares for Thanksgiving, let’s remember to give thanks for all we have and to reach out to those who may still need a deeper connection to family, particularly over the holidays.