New Milford teen brings hope to foster care children
NEW MILFORD — A local high school freshman is touching the lives of youth through a project she initiated to help children in foster care.
Julia Anderson, 14, recently donated nearly 100 night lights to Family & Children’s Aid, Inc. as part of her “Your Future’s Bright” campaign.
“It was amazing for them to connect with us,” said Jasmine Sams, program coordinator for the agency’s Waterbury office. “The actual need for (night lights) was just right on target.”
Family & Children’s Aid, which has offices throughout the state, including in New Milford, offers numerous services. Among them, is a therapeutic foster care program for children ages 6 to 17 who have experienced significant trauma, including physical or emotional abuse and/or neglect.
“Kids come into care scared of the dark,” Sams said. “It stems from trauma they experienced, it’s very difficult for them to rest properly, especially when it’s dark.”
Julia’s mother, Sarah Anderson, said her daughter first thought about collecting night lights sometime last year, but the collection drive began this spring.
“I want to help other kids,” Julia said, noting foster children hold a special place in her heart. “I’m hoping that this will make them feel more cozy at night.”
Julia described the fear foster children can have when they are in the dark.
Night lights can be dropped off at Housatonic Valley Insurance, 6 Main St., New Milford and New Milford Counseling Center, 41 South Main St., New Milford. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My goal is to make kids know that they will be OK if they wake up in the night,” she said. “They will see the light that represents their future because after everything they have been through, I want them to know that there is good coming towards them.”
“I’m just so proud of her,” Sarah said of her daughter. “She’s strong, motivated and it’s really nice to see she has a heart that wants to give back. ... And little things can sometimes be big things.”
Julia researched the best type of item foster children might need or find helpful — she considered blankets and suitcases, but honed in on night lights.
Notices of the collection drive were placed on social media and on fliers around town, and donations began pouring in this spring.
Night lights were sent to the Andersons directly via Amazon and dropped off at local collection boxes.
“It was really exciting,” Sarah said. “Social networking went crazy.”
Sams said she is touched by the awareness and care those in the community, like Julia, have for the children.
“It gives me so much encouragement to see that kids get the message and can think beyond themselves,” she said.
Night lights have been sorted for children coming into care, and the Family & Children’s Aid team is working to produce cards and labels with Julia’s message to accompany each light.
“Our goal is to keep our children safe,” Sams said.
Many reports of children who face challenges on the home front come from schools because staff “see children on a regular basis,” she said, and can take note when kids come to school having not been fed, aren’t dressed appropriately for the weather or experience other changes.
Sams said “despite the fact after-school programs, and schools were closed (this spring due to the pandemic), kids still came into care and are still coming into care.”
“It’s tough to find appropriate housing because we don’t have nearly as many homes for kids as we would like,” the program coordinator emphasized.
A 15-week licensing process, of which six weeks are virtual training, is available for those interested in becoming a foster family.
Individuals and families can become licensed for respite, too, providing a few hours or partial day, not necessarily full-time care.
“People do want to help during the pandemic, and I think that’s great,” Sams said. “People are still looking, it’s the silver lining that people want to help other people.”