INDIANAPOLIS — The phrase ‘home for the holidays” often doesn’t have quite the same meaning if you’re part of the foster care system.
“The holidays are normally a really tough time for people who don’t have their home, their normal home or their normal family,” said 23-year-old Rimy Morris, who knows the feeling all too well.
She was in foster care since she was 10.
By the time Morris turned 18, she’d lived in three different residential facilities and six different foster homes.
“I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I know the holidays would get lonely because it’s not your family with your traditions,” Morris explained, saying she’s thankful to be a part of easing some of that loneliness for the thousands of kids living in foster care in Indiana.
In 2019, that number was close to 30,000, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Morris now works for Foster Success, a nonprofit that helps kids age out of the system.
This year, Foster Success will host its third annual Friendsgiving, bringing young people in the foster care system together to share a meal and time with each other.
“It’s our tradition. It’s our thing,” said Morris.
The event, held in four different regions of the state, is also about raising awareness of the children growing up in Indiana’s foster care system and how Foster Success is helping them.
“It’s all about ensuring that our young people are empowered, supported and heard throughout what their journey is,” said Travis Tester, chief development officer of Foster Success.
Now, that journey involves a gathering just for kids in foster care during the holidays.
“There’s a difference when you can say, ‘I’m going home,’ and our young people don’t have that opportunity a lot of time, so when they can say, ‘I’m going to this Friendsgiving,’ and in a lot of ways that’s them going home,” said Tester.
For Rimy Morris, helping plan the event is a coming home of sorts, too, a full-circle moment and the chance to show other foster kids the way forward.
“The journey, though it’s been hard, it’s been rewarding in that I get to clear the way for other people like myself,” said Morris.