A group of dedicated individuals set up a winter wonderland for Lincoln County foster families in the parking lot of the Lincoln County Department of Social Services on Saturday evening. Normally, a huge holiday celebration is put on for foster families at the James W. Warren Citizens Center, but COVID social distancing requirements nixed that. Staff at the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center have been organizing this celebration for more than 15 years now, according to Sherry Reinhardt, the child advocacy center director.
As has been the case for past celebrations, even though it was drive through this year, miracles and happy endings were wrapped up and delivered. For the foster children, many of them who may be spending their first happy holiday with a family, that that the event wasn’t held in person, may not have mattered much. As they drove through, they received hot chocolate, cookies and other treats, stuffed animals and wrapped presents. Of course, Santa was on hand in his sleigh pulled by reindeer.
Carl Osment and his wife, Angel Richardson, attended with their adopted daughter, MacKenzie Osment. The couple have been foster parents since 2012. They began fostering MacKenzie when she was nine days old. Then they officially adopted her but are still fostering other children.
“Our biological children were all older and more independent,” Richardson said. “We still had the desire to share our love with little ones.”
The family has attended the foster family Christmas parties with MacKenzie for the past five years and have a collection of pictures they’ve taken of the child with Santa. As they waited for another family to convince their child that Santa wasn’t a scary person so they could take pictures at the Lincoln Cultural Center’s Breakfast with Santa, Richardson showed the pictures she’d taken of MacKenzie over the years to the excited little girl. Richardson told MacKenzie that the second year they did pictures of her, MacKenzie was crying just like the child ahead of her.
Like with their biological children, Osment and Richardson have memories that they’ve made with MacKenzie that they can share with her as she grows up. Special memories that MacKenzie herself may not have made if she hadn’t been fostered and subsequently adopted.
“It’s been wonderful to appreciate them,” Richardson said. “When I was young and had my own kids, you don’t really realize you know to cherish every moment. We’ve been able to do that with MacKenzie.”
Every placement is different, Richardson added. The couple never know when they’re going to get a placement or what the child will be like.
Osment agreed, saying it was like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates, you never really know what you’re going to get, but they’re all good.
“These kids need somebody,” he said. “It’s not their fault they’re in the situation they’re in.”
At this time, the couple are doing what’s called respite or temporary placement when another foster parent needs a break from a foster.
As is always the case, it took a village to arrange and put on the celebration this year including members of the staff of the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center, staff at the Lincoln County Department of Social Services, Denver Lake Normal Rotary, Denver United Methodist Church, Lincoln Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Advanced Family Eye Care, Helms Home Care and the Lincoln County Sheriff Department Explorers.