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Magical Moments at Candy Cane Connection

Photo courtesy of Chris Duynski

Thank you to all who attended Candy Cane Connection in 2018! This annual event brings SaintA licensed foster parents, children and other family members together for festive winter fun and family bonding.

This year, for the first time foster parents could invite their child’s biological families along to share in the activities. The result was a shining example of shared-parenting. Together, the families enjoyed Grebe’s Bakery cooking decorating, photos with Santa, ornament making, kindness rock decorating and lots of dancing. About 300 parents and children attended the event, which was held on December 1, 2018 at the Italian Conference Center. 

Some foster kids were with their foster parents, one telling Santa all he wanted for Christmas was to be adopted; others were given the gift of visiting with biological parents and siblings.

A Holiday Reunion

Courtney Sinclair, SaintA community engagement specialist, was thrilled to see one of the families he used to serve in his former case management role. This was a very special day for them because the whole family hadn’t seen each other in several years. As a teen, the mother was in foster care herself. Later, she had her first child removed from her home and her parental rights were eventually terminated.   

When her second child went into foster care, she would talk regularly at home visits about wishing to see her oldest son again one day. Mom has done a lot of hard work and she is healing and on the right track. She was recently reunified with her second oldest son and currently has a 1-year-old baby who has never entered into foster care. At Candy Connection, all of the brothers got to meet for the first time and mom’s wish came true. 

“The biological and foster families sat at the same table and the brothers played together,” said Sinclair.

The Gift of Stable Relationships

The event was a glimpse into the power of shared-parenting and stable relationships. Shared-parenting is a trauma-informed approach to caring for children in foster care. It’s all about open communication, respect, and making sure all children and caregivers are supported. 

For foster children, maintaining relationships with all adults in their life helps keep them from feeling stuck in the middle and reduces stress and anxiety. Biological parents can learn and grow through seeing positive parenting skills first hand and foster parents can get a better understanding of a child’s norms and experiences. Read “Co-Parenting: Good for Kids and Parents” to learn more. 

Nancy Nedland, event volunteer and one of Santa’s Helpers at Candy Cane Connection said, “It makes so much sense to include whole families for a shared parenting celebration; it seems like something we could do often.”

Nedland also observed some heartwarming interactions between families. She said a biological mom brought her 5-month-old twins over to Santa several times so she could have her picture taken with them. The magical moments continued at Santa’s station, with another boy exclaiming, with his fist pumped in the air, that he could “finally take a photo of his WHOLE family!”

Special Thanks to all the Helpers

A total of 49 volunteers, with five being from Kohls Care, helped make the event possible. Volunteers worked the stations, which included Registration, Cookie decorating, Llama and Emoji Ornaments, Kindness Rocks, Origami, Letters to Santa, Santa’s Helpers, and greeters.

DJ Tim Sledge drew all kids and parents alike to the dance floor, providing tunes that made everyone bust a move. Even Santa did the limbo! Photographer Chris Duzynski captured the special moments and Bartolotta Catering served up a delicious breakfast for all.

“It was truly a wonderful experience and I feel lucky to have been a part of it,” Nedland said.
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