• The Liberty/Long DFACS is seeking foster families willing to care for teenagers and sibling groups of three or more. For more information or to become involved, call 1-877-210-KIDS (5437).
Several children in foster care got a rare treat Friday morning when they gathered at Liberty Independent Troop Park for an Easter egg hunt.
The event came with a sweet addition: Thanks to the efforts of the teen group Stuff 4 Love, each child took home an Easter basket stuffed with more than $50 worth of toys, treats and gift cards.
Kelsey Higgason, the First Presbyterian Christian Academy sophomore who founded Stuff 4 Love, said it was amazing to see her idea materialize.
"It’s cool hearing their names now," Higgason said during the event. "We wrote their names on each of the baskets, so now I know which baskets are theirs."
Higgason came up with the idea in the beginning of March when she was inspired by a film she saw in her Bible class. Along with friends and classmates, she sprang into action and requested the names, ages and number of children in foster care with the Liberty and Long Department of Family and Children Services.
When she launched the drive, Higgason said she wanted every child to have warm memories like her own of waking up to treats and spending time with family on Easter Sunday. On Friday, she got to see the children light up with glee.
"Seeing a little kid’s face, it just makes me feel so good," she said.
Liberty/Long DFACS Director Debbie Bennett said there currently are 47 children in foster care in both counties.
Between the two egg-hunting sites, DFACS workers planted pinwheels in the ground to symbolize the 364 reports of child abuse and neglect made during 2011 in Liberty and Long counties. Of those reports, about 40 percent of the cases were substantiated, Bennett said.
May is National Foster Care Month, which provides the opportunity to shed light on the experiences of foster children and families, Bennett said, adding that the event allows DFACS to incorporate both ideas.
"It has just really taken us aback, in a very positive way, that teenagers in our community would step forth and pull together — not just want to do something, but actually pull together a project on their own, raise money, giveaways, pull together the Easter bags themselves without any adult involvement or direction," Bennett added.
At the park, the children colored in coloring books, played with chalk and chased each other as they waited for the hunt to begin. Children ages 4 and younger searched for eggs in one area, while those 5 and older searched in another. Once given the go-ahead, some children ran toward the pastel eggs, while some others more timidly approached the eggs. Afterward, children beamed as they showed off their bags full of eggs, and they oohed and ahhed at the candy inside.
Foster mother Tandy Derringer said such events offer a chance for children — and foster parents — in similar situations to connect. Too often, the children are ostracized or even made fun of for their life situations, but outreach like Stuff 4 Love demonstrates that someone loves and cares for the kids.
"It makes them feel needed," Derringer said.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time for communities to recognize that everyone can help promote the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.