PORTLAND, Ore. — The foster care system in Oregon has an average of 12,000 children a year, who spend at least one day in care.
Jazz Bradley was a child of foster care but was adopted by his aunt and uncle at a young age. Today he works with the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). He is a teen caseworkers at the Alberta branch.
"I went into this work to be able to change a life in one way or another," said Bradley. He says when most people think of foster care, they think of little kids getting adopted, but with teens, it’s a little difficult.
There aren’t enough foster families, and many who might be willing to take in a younger child don’t feel equipped to deal with a teen. He says there is also a stigma.
"Because in some people's heads, it means 'You are a bad kid or something bad has happened to you, I feel so sorry for you,' and then they get the sympathy thing and a lot of kids don’t want that sympathy, they just want to be seen as a normal kid."
Bradley says teenagers are also the ones that usually get forgotten about during the holidays. "The teenagers are a hard sell for a lot of people to donate to because everyone thinks about the little kids."
With that in mind, for the second year in a row, nonprofit Project 48 teamed up with DHS this holiday season to give out bags filled with “holiday cheer” for teens in foster care.
"People get to adopt-a-bag, which is essentially adopting a teen for the holiday season, and we get to fill this bag full of really fun items for these teens just to really give them some extra cheer," explained Brandy Memory, cofounder of Project 48.
Items vary from clothes to snacks to electronics. Last year with the community's help, they were able to give a brighter Christmas to over 250 Multnomah County teens in foster care. This year with COVID-19, they had to pivot.
"We were determined because we thought of all the years, this is the year that these teens really, really need to get some extra fun stuff so we decided to do virtual tags," said Memory.
"So these little bags that Project 48 gives even the little wishes that they grant, really do help these kids feel like they're normal," Bradley said. Bringing holiday joy to teens in foster care even during the uncertainties of COVID-19.