By Harriet O’Neill

The holiday season is here. It’s a time for giving and also a good time to pause and reflect on the many blessings for which we are thankful.

As a parent, my children top the list. Every day I am grateful for the joy, and the challenges, they bring. Their safety and well-being are my first and last thoughts of the day. I am counting the hours until they return home for the holidays, eager to hear their voices, listen to their stories, and share their dreams. All across the nation, families are making preparations to connect with loved ones.

Think for a moment of what it would be like to have no one expecting you home; No one looking out the window awaiting your arrival; No one to lament if distance or circumstance prevent you from being there; No one to give thanks that you are part of their life.

Thousands of Texas children know that feeling all too well.

On any given day in Texas, there are more than 17,000 children in foster care. Many of these children have been abused or neglected and removed from their homes, perhaps forever, through no fault of their own. These children have either lost, or never experienced, the sense of permanence and belonging that comes with being part of a family.

Children like Benjamin (not his real name), who at 5 years old was placed in foster care because his mother was a drug addict who supported her habit with prostitution. For 12 years Ben moved from foster home to foster home, from treatment center to treatment center, clinging to the belief that any day his mother would reappear and make everything right. She never did, and Ben never experienced the love or security of a real family. Two days before his 18th birthday, Ben was arrested for stealing. He turned 18 in jail. When Ben walked out as an adult, he had aged out of the foster care system and disappeared into the homeless population. No one noticed. No one was waiting for him to come home.

More than 6,000 children in Texas are waiting for a family to adopt them, to love them, and to cherish them forever. These kids long every day for a family, for a place to belong, and the holidays are particularly painful.

You can make a difference. During this holiday season, consider whether you could be that person who waits at the window for a child without a home. If you can, you will give the gift of a lifetime. If you can’t, there are so many other ways to help. It is said that you don’t have to raise a child to raise them up -- you just have to raise your hand. Every minute you devote to helping a child in foster care has an impact.
O’Neill is a Supreme Court of Texas Justice and chair of the Commission on Children, Youth, and Families. Visit http://www.raisemeup.org/ to explore adoption opportunities and the many ways that you can volunteer your time.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the Texas Lone Star Forum. 12/08


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