Every September, the Walker County Georgia Division of Family and Children Services distributes holiday wish lists to the roughly 160 children in foster care, said Madison Warren, a foster care technician. The "Secret Santa" service supports newborns to 21-year-olds.
The wish lists ask each child to list five items they'd like, along with some of their favorite colors, candies, sports teams and hobbies. Kids typically ask for bicycles, a new pair of jeans and shoes, said Linda Lingerfelt, a foster care supervisor.
"Our kids aren't very materialistic because they haven't had a lot," Lingerfelt said. "You look at the list and you realize that they aren't taking things for granted."
As the holiday season approaches, the department is trying a new way to grant these wishes.
Katie Baker, a social services specialist, has seen Amazon wish lists used for bridal registries and baby showers, so she decided to put some of her foster care children's Santa lists on the service.
After a few volunteers posted a link to the wish list on Facebook, the response, she said, has been unexpected. In mid-October, one anonymous donor bought over $400 worth of gifts, and another bought the rest of the wish list worth $765.
The Amazon wish list is a pilot program this year, Baker said.
"The two main benefits and goals of using the Amazon wish list, in addition to getting sponsors for entire wish lists, is to allow a more budget-friendly option and to allow those not local to the office to participate," she said.
The Secret Santa program also partners with local churches and businesses, and as of late October, the team said they had fulfilled the lists of about 30 of the 160 children.
"We start early so we can have the gifts ready for the kids," Lingerfelt said.
There's still a long way to go, said Warren, but seeing the few gifts that have already been shipped to the office has been uplifting.
"The bottom line is that not only the staff at Walker [DFCS] are grateful for sponsors, but also the foster parents, the group homes, and most importantly, the children," Warren said. "We want to make every year the best year, but we are working diligently to make this the best yet. With the help of our community, we know that we can make that happen."
Those interested, whether in sponsoring a child for Christmas or becoming a foster parent, can contact Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly sponsor a list at tinyurl.com/WCFosterCareAmazon.
Email Sabrina Bodon at email@example.com