More than 300 children in foster care in D.C. celebrated the season with family members at a holiday party hosted by the Foster and Adoptive Parent Advocacy Center on Saturday.
There, they heard the voice of wisdom and experience from D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith, who spent time in foster care as a child in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
The party, held in the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Gallaudet University, was seasonally decorated for the special luncheon featuring music and games. More than 50 volunteers oversaw the festivities, including collecting and wrapping the hundreds of gifts for kids, heaped under a Christmas tree.
“We try to bring foster families and their children that were separated from their birth families and their siblings, to meet with their birth families,” said Najiba Hlemi, executive director of the Foster and Adoptive Parent Advocacy Center. “So they can have a joyful memory of Christmas.”
Smith told the children that she hoped her life in foster care would give them hope.
“Even in the space of being in foster care, I had a family that adopted me, a pastor and his wife who saw something … in me that I couldn’t see in myself,” Smith said.
“It’s my hope that my story will encourage some young woman, young boy, young girl to keep on fighting the good fight and to stay encouraged and know there’s hope beyond their circumstances today.”
The chief went on to say that she was a child of teenage parents who divorced and struggled with substance abuse.
She said she was fostered and later adopted by a pastor and his wife with five daughters, making her the sixth. The chief said she eventually reconciled with and forgave her birth mom.
Among the foster parents were young families, as well as families with plenty of fostering experience.
“I got him when he was 18 months old, and he’s now 7 years old,” said Carolyn Woods, a foster mom speaking about her son.
“It’s been a joy for me. A lot of times people look at it like we’re the blessing to the children, but that’s not always true, they’re a blessing to us.”