As you get ready to deliver gifts near and far, I know that you will do your best to give gifts to children rich and poor, urban and rural, black, brown and white, and healthy and sick. Despite this, I know that not all children will have a festive holiday. I know that family and economic pressures can make this joyful season stressful. I know that high unemployment and rising homelessness means a holiday dinner may take place at a shelter. And I know that some parents won't be around to tuck in their children or fill their stockings.
Even though you have elves in every community helping those less fortunate who are struggling this season, I know it may not be enough. That's why -- if you have room on your sleigh -- I've put together a holiday wish list with a few more items that could really make a difference for vulnerable children:
- TOOLS: Give parents the tools to be the best parents they can be. Preventing child abuse and neglect by teaching great parenting is the best way to help children grow and prosper.
- RESOURCES: Give child welfare workers the resources they need to help those children whose parents can't, don't or won't. Budget cuts are making this humble and honorable profession even more stressful and difficult.
- HOMES: Help find adoptive homes for the 183,000 children who are formally wards of the state. The greatest gift these children can receive is a loving family.
- SUPPORT: Help the millions of grandparents and other relatives who are raising their grandchildren and kin receive the support they need so they can succeed. Reforms to Title IV-E of the Social Security Act can help ensure that grandparents don't become destitute by caring for their kin as well as enable more relatives to care for their loved ones.
- FAMILIES: Help us reunite foster children with their birth parents when possible. Keeping families together is the best solution for a majority of the nearly half million children in foster care.
- STRENGTH: For all the foster youth who are aging out of the foster care system without a family or a place to call home, give them the strength and resilience to find good support systems that will help them succeed.
As you start your long trek from the North Pole, I hope you can squeeze these extra gifts in your bag. I don't mean to appear greedy, but these presents will help children feel special, nurtured, and secure. Every child -- every person for that matter -- should wake up on Christmas Day and know that they are not alone... and best of all, that they are loved. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.