December 24, 2015
As we approach the end of the year, each of us recognizes the holiday season is a time-honored opportunity for friends and family to gather, pass on stories, and share a meal. This is certainly true at each of our homes throughout every one of our Villages, which provide care 24 hours of every day and continuously work to ensure that families can be together not just for the holidays, but throughout the year. A safe, loving home for brothers and sisters, a full-time Foster Parent, and an intentional community: these are the pieces by which we operate, woven together by the common thread of family.
The sad reality is 75% of brothers and sisters in traditional foster care are separated and end up living in different homes. If a child is removed from the only environment he or she knows, no matter the situation, and experiences physical and emotional isolation, then trauma is compounded. In fact, the loneliness causes even more harm in the most stressful situations.
Because of the support of many people like you, we are able to offer an alternative that focuses on keeping families together. Your dedication to helping us unite brothers and sisters allows our children the chance to create an even greater bond with one another, especially at a time in history when the nucleus of a family is changing. While it is true the notion of family continues to be refined and debated by political, legal, and faith-based groups, I would suggest there are certain core elements that are essential to the meaning and understanding of family.
We, as members of our own families, share not only a common space, but also a common purpose in living together. We are united in a common sense of care, and love is the thread that binds us: a love known in service to others; true authentic friendship with each other; and providing support and charity to others. I also suggest that as we understand and experience not just our SOS families, but all our families, we consider three other essential elements that make up a family today.
First is the element of struggle. Struggles appear both outside of the home in our day-to-day lives, as well as inside the home with the challenges that come with living in close quarters with one group of people. In the midst of those struggles, a family can provide healing and restorative strength to move forward. The second element of any family is the notion of commitment. Commitment provides a true sense of stability for each member of the family unit, who knows despite the struggles and hardships they may encounter that each member of the family stands together united as one. And third, a core element of family is that of nourishment. The holiday meal is just one form of nourishment, but families can nourish each other every day with physical, emotional, and spiritual guidance to help each loved one reach his or her true potential.
I encourage you, as you read this, to reflect upon not only your experience of family, but also the common experiences threaded through: our mutual struggles of understanding one another; commitment to stand with each other; and nourishment of our minds, bodies, and souls. Together as we build families at SOS Illinois, we patch the hopes and dreams of many lives and in doing so strengthen the fabric of our communities, allowing us to become one united Village.