Christine and Dwayne’s Christmas day is not one that resembles a Christmas movie shown on TV. The two take care of their granddaughter as their foster child.
On Saturday, foster families registered in the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services celebrated Christmas at Hart Park at the annual foster children holiday toy event.
“It was a passion to deal with the happier side of our art department because we’re always dealing with trauma and crisis and detentions and all that,” said Azar Namin, a community liaison for the Los Angeles County DCFS, “so I wanted to do something that would be a little bit happier to make their life a little happier and more easy for the kids.”
All of the families were greeted with warm smiles and as they entered the Christmas wonderland. Multiple types of donations from various avenues of the community filled the event.
Kids were given the opportunity to pick a toy from “toy land,” but this was not their only present. They also stopped by the bear drive to pick out a stuffed animal and Code Read’s booth to grab a book.
“The Thanksgiving period and Christmas period are wonderful times for people to come together and help, but it’s also very difficult time for our families because a lot of our families don’t have a lot of resources,” said Michael Aruso, regional administrator at the Los Angeles County DCFS.
As soon as they sat down at the red and green tables, the kids were able to rip through the packaging and play with their new toys.
“It’s just a blessing that that we all can come together and give gifts to these kids they need a little happiness and joyful and their life,” said foster parent Christine, who was not able to provide her last name per protocol for the event. “They all need it because of the way the world is today. They just need to be shown love and compassion.”
There were many other stops for the kids to enjoy int the wonderland such as arts and crafts, creating their own reindeer food and face painting. Mr. And Mrs. Claus also made an appearance too, all the way from the North Pole. Fresh tacos, rice and beans were served to all those who were hungry.
The group efforts of all those involved in the event did not know what to expect from the crowd. This was the first year that the event returned to take place in person since 2019. The turnout exceeded expectations as volunteers were constantly grabbing more tables and chairs for the families.
“Seeing this is great because I see that collaboration between social workers and families, it’s like a team,” said Namin.
Christine, and her husband Dwayne, agreed that this event makes things a whole lot easier on the foster families at this time of the season.
“To me, it means the community comes together and does stuff for kids that are in need,” said Dwayne.
Aruso said that the holiday spirit is one that comes out during the holiday season. This is where they see an influx in donations. He wanted to remind the community that yes, this year had the lowest number of foster families the department had to work with, but to not forget that they are in need all year round.
“We’re so excited to see families getting back together, not coming to the department in the first place, but then to also have wonderful community support,” said Aruso.