Pensacola, Fla. (Dec. 12, 2023) Group homes for teens at Christmas are a blessing. They also can be a reminder of a home left behind. Teens in the foster care system long for their families. Even when teens are removed after experiencing abuse, abandonment, and neglect, losing family bonds can make holidays especially difficult. Help from our community can provide that added touch needed to give them a warm and comforting season. Instead of just a house to live in, they can enjoy a true home for the holidays.
A teen we will call Joey to respect his privacy, became a Lakeview Center group home resident three years ago. Joey said what he enjoys most is that he has a Christmas at all.
“I like to open gifts on Christmas like other kids. I also like to decorate stockings and other things like maybe make a gingerbread house or something fun.”
Group home managers see a downward shift in mood around the holidays. They work hard to make the holiday a memorable event. Some teens have family members, such as grandparents, who invite them to visit, but that isn’t possible for all kids.
“To nurture the holiday spirit, I encourage activities like baking cookies, decorating a tree, doing crafts, or watching Christmas movies. Lakeview Center provides a gift and caters a holiday meal for the teens. I hope they get to open at least one gift on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day,” said Conchetta Gross, group home manager. “I try to make it a warm setting. We have hot cocoa and make stockings to make it more like a home.”
What teens in group homes want at Christmas
Teens living in group homes like to receive gift cards to do personal shopping. Shoes and video games are also big hits. The girls like books, lip gloss, perfume, shoes, clothes, jewelry, and anything sparkly. They all want tablets, like any teen. They can also receive passes to go on outings to area attractions.
At any given time, group home residents can reach a maximum of 8 to 12 teens. They are mostly two to a room, in each home. The average length of stay in a group foster home ranges from a few days as a temporary placement to multiple years. “For most of our kids, the parental rights have already been terminated,” Conchetta said. “They will definitely age out in our foster home if not adopted.” Some of the kids require weekly therapy and medication management from a Lakeview Center psychiatrist.
Holidays look a little different in a group home, but foster teens have wishes and dreams like all teens do. If you can help make this holiday season special for a teen in foster care, please visit our website. You can donate to Lakeview Center. Select Lakeview Center under “apply my donation to” or purchase items from our Amazon wish list. Any gift is appreciated.
Photos of the foster care group homes decorated for Christmas.