Social workers play holiday hosts for troubled families

An Edmonton agency is looking to provide a Christmas for children who have been removed from their homes due to their parents' abuse and addiction problems.

"It can be a very depressing time for some people in general. I think that impact around Christmas is felt a lot heavier with the parents that we work with," said social work Brian Labelle, who works at Edmonton’s Family Centre.

Labelle says this year, the Family Centre is organizing 30 supervised Christmas gatherings for children who have been removed from their homes.

Labelle says the visits can have a long-term benefit, giving parents a powerful incentive to work on the issues that led to the children being removed and makes it more likely that the family will be able to be reunited permanently.

"Ideally, my Christmas wish is that they are able to function without our support," he said.

The visits are most important for the children, says Jamie Thrasher.

The Family Centre staff member runs a home where two young boys, 12 and 17, live after being removed from a living situation with their mother, who is battling a drug addiction.

She says being away from home has been hard on both of them, but the youngest boy has taken it particularly hard.

"He wants to see his family, he wants to spend time with them and that's something he misses here," she said.

She'll be hosting a Christmas dinner at her home for the boys and their mother as part of the program.

"Since I have been part of their lives for the past few months, it's good for me to be there and … but also, I want to give them as much alone time, kind of creating their own family atmosphere."

She says she hopes the visit might lead to a more permanent reunion in the future.

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