We all are well aware of how different 2020 has been — a pandemic, a contentious election, social unrest, the hottest summer on record — all of these have frayed everyone’s nerves.
Even at Arizona Helping Hands, despite seeing every day the importance of our work providing basic needs to Arizona’s 14,000+ children in foster care, we’ve faced our share of challenges.
COVID-19 has forced us to innovate in how we provide services. We have always experienced such joy holding infants born substance-exposed who were just released from the hospital or playing with a train set with children who had just been placed into foster care. Those personal interactions gave us a direct connection to our families that we lose in these days of no-contact servicing.
Personally, I hate the fact that I can’t visit with Bubba when his family adds yet another child in foster care to the family unit, or hug grandma to support her on the journey of now raising the three grandchildren she has taken on 24/7 responsibility for providing safety and love.
The joys from those one-on-one interactions has been dimmed, but the work hasn’t let up one bit.
In August and September this year, more than 900 children entered the state’s foster care system. That’s an incredible 30 children each and every day who were removed from their predicaments due to instances of abuse and neglect. So many young lives whose very existence was disrupted because of circumstances beyond any child’s control.
Who do the grandparents, aunts, uncles and licensed foster families turn to for assistance when a frightened child needs love and safety? They look to Arizona Helping Hands.
They know that we will provide them with the basic needs that biological parents have nine months to purchase. From our warehouse in north Phoenix, foster families receive beds, cribs, clothing, diapers, educational supplies, and even birthday gifts. All these services are geared to make life safer and more comfortable for the 30 children who will enter foster care today, tomorrow and next Tuesday in this on-going stream of lives affected by the foster care system.
Despite the challenges, or maybe due to them, our work continues unfettered, thanks to an army of supporters and volunteers.
So, even in the midst of the pandemic, we give thanks. Thank you to Old Navy and Famous Footwear who have donated clothing and shoes that we can provide to children who enter foster care with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Thank you to Amazon, who is the presenting sponsor of our 22nd annual holiday toy drive.
Thank you to our devoted volunteers who will don masks and work to provide more than 300 children a month with a personal Birthday Dreams package.
Thank you to the City of Phoenix, that has provided us with overflow storage space at the Burton Barr library.
The biggest thank you of all goes to you, an Arizona taxpayer who will once again make the decision to use your personal tax dollars to support our work.
We receive no governmental funding, and the driving force behind our ability to serve is the Arizona qualifying foster care tax credit.
Through this program, every Arizona taxpayer has the right to say to our state government that you want your dollars to be used to buy beds and cribs for children in need. A single taxpayer can donate $500 per year, (married couples $1,000) and the best part about it is that every dollar will come right back to you as a tax credit on your 2020 Arizona state tax return.
Your donation costs you nothing, but those dollars will buy beds, cribs and more for children who desperately need the essential needs we provide. We take great pride in the fact that 93 cents of every donated dollar goes directly into program costs at Arizona Helping Hands.
As you experience Thanksgiving in a different manner this year — maybe without your traditional family celebration, or separated by miles — give thought to the 14,000+ children in foster care in Arizona today. Those boys and girls live a separated experience, longing for a forever home filled with love and safety.
I give thanks despite the pandemic for the generosity of our community that allows the work we do at Arizona Helping Hands to continue unabated in our mission to bring hope to children in foster care.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Editor’s Note: Dan Shufelt is the president and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands.