St. Vincent Foster Families Making the Holiday Season Memorable for Foster Children

The holiday season can be a difficult time for foster parents and children to navigate, but with support from St. Vincent Family Services’ behavioral health experts, no one has to go it alone.

St. Vincent Family Services (SVFS) supports nearly 8,000 children and families each year with critical behavioral health treatment. In addition to behavioral health, SVFS also trains foster families to support thousands of youth currently living in child welfare.

Members of SVFS’ Foster Care team – Theresa Van Dootingh, Karen Foster, Joycelyn Calhoun, Marjorie Buie-Collard and Ajoilyn Anthony – are sharing the following tips for families caring for foster children this holiday season.

Have an Open Conversation About Holiday Traditions

For some children, the holidays may be a trigger that can cause stress, anxiety or grief, but SVFS trains foster parents to navigate those triggers. SVFS encourages foster parents to have an open discussion with their foster child about what holiday traditions they are used to celebrating, and what traditions the foster parent typically honors. As a result, the foster parents should consider ways to recognize both sets of traditions to make it a positive experience for the foster child. During this process, it is important to have open conversations to determine whether the foster child is worried, sad or fearful about anything the foster parents may have planned for the holidays.

Establish a Strong Support Network Among Family and Friends

The holidays may be the first time that foster children meet their foster parents’ extended family. Foster parents should plan ahead by having a conversation with extended family members in advance of any holiday gatherings to ensure the foster child will be included in all holiday activities such as a gift exchange or family game. Set clear expectations that your foster child is part of the family and ensure all extended family members are aligned.

Consider Special Ways to Connect With Your Foster Child

SVFS stresses that one-on-one time is crucial, especially in homes with several children – whether foster or biological. Have a conversation with your foster child about their holiday wish list and consider age-appropriate, affordable activities to participate in one-on-one.

Larry Jackson, a former foster child and current SVFS foster parent of seven years, shared that he goes above and beyond for his foster children, especially during the holidays. Larry’s top priority during the holidays is to give his foster children a Christmas they will remember, and each year, he does so by celebrating special traditions like putting up the Christmas tree, baking Christmas cookies and building gingerbread houses together as a family. This year, Larry looks forward to taking his foster children to visit Santa, which is a new tradition his foster children expressed interest in doing.

 For more information on SVFS Foster care and our upcoming Foster Parent classes, visit, or call (614) 743-5856.