As we start 2021, there continues to be an intense stream of news across politics, racial inequity, the pandemic, and the economy. This week, we are seeing many of those issues being brought to the headlines in troubling ways. While we all hope this year will bring some relief from the stress and anxiety of 2020, the reality is that we will continue to face many of these issues for the foreseeable future.
This January, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois shares a message of togetherness in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day with “Family Togetherness Bags” to support the bond between birth parents and children in foster care. These bags were created by staff and will be delivered to 61 biological parents served through the SOS Illinois program throughout the weekend leading up to Monday, January 18.
Click here to read our CEO’s reflection on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The “Family Togetherness Bags” are a project of the SOS Children’s Villages Illinois Racial Justice Committee. During the month of January, the message about MLK Day is the meaning of family, community, and togetherness, even during COVID-19, when our communities may be physically separated. To increase the bonding experience between birth parents and youth, the Committee has prepared a “Family Togetherness Bag.” These bags will be dispersed to our Child Welfare Specialists, so they can be shared with biological parents to use during family visits. The “Family Togetherness Bag” is a reusable bag that includes four parent/child activities and items that promote family togetherness:
- Goya Foods family recipe with ingredients – This recipe offers an opportunity for the family to cook together and share a meal.
- Book – The book promotes learning about racial inequities in our society, as well as offers important together time as a family.
- Board Game – The board game provides an opportunity to create happy childhood memories.
- SOS Illinois keychain – This is a small reminder of how we serve the entire family to transform each individual life.
- Picture frame art projects (decoration and glue inserts for each frame) – Being creative as a family is creates lasting memories.
- Family Picture – SOS Illinois Foster Parents are encouraged to send a picture, which will allow the biological parent to keep the family close with them, even when they are apart.
“I find hope in the progress that is being made in combatting the pandemic. I am heartened by the increased focus across our society on eliminating racial inequity,” said Delphine Rankin, Chief Operating Officer at SOS Illinois. “If you’re like me, you are looking for ways to take action in support of your hopes and beliefs. In the meantime, I continue to find pride in what SOS Children’s Villages Illinois does every day to help create loving and safe homes and in turn greater access to opportunity for everyone in our country.”
The SOS Children’s Villages Illinois’ Racial Justice Committee has been working behind the scenes to determine the best approach SOS Illinois can take to address the issues we face today, in particular working to reunite families. The Racial Justice Committee recognizes the systems of inequity that disproportionately impact people of color; socioeconomic deprivation, poor education, and lack of access to resources. SOS Illinois recognizes the role this disparity plays in the dissolution of the family unit. We are therefore committed to mitigating these challenges in order to reunite families or ensure a permanent outcome for children where they can continue to grow and thrive. The SOS Illinois commitment is to support a process that ensures children find their “forever home.” SOS Illinois does so by building bridges between our biological parents and our Foster Parents throughout the communities we serve.
On Monday, 1/18/2021, as SOS Illinois observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national day of service, we encourage all to participate and/or join virtual opportunities to celebrate or volunteer on efforts to improve your communities. Here are a couple of opportunities:
- Art Institute of Chicago – Virtual https://www.artic.edu/
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot Interfaith, featuring Atlanta’s Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms –http://www.chi.gov/mlk
Additionally, to read more about how our organization is working to support biological parents, read our latest blog – How SOS Illinois Foster Parents Support Birth Parents.