Foster families plan to celebrate holiday season

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BRATTLEBORO — A "gift-giving tree" is adding some cheer to the holiday season for local children in foster care.

"We have 162 kids in custody as of today," Michelle Colburn, resource coordinator at the Brattleboro office of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, said Wednesday.

Colburn took the job six years ago, when closer to 70 children were in foster care. She attributes the higher volume today to the opioid crisis, mental health issues and homelessness.

Her group works with kids and families all over Windham County. This is the second year the tree has gone up at Ramunto's Brick Oven Pizza in Brattleboro.

"I came back again because last year was a good success," Colburn said, estimating more than 60 gifts were collected last December. "The tree is put up and has tags representing all of our kids in custody."

The gift tree features the gender and age of children in custody. It's up to the gift giver to decide what to buy.

"They can be as creative as they want to be with the gift," said Colburn, who put the tree up last week.

Gifts can be dropped off at Ramunto's until the holiday party Dec. 14. To learn more about time and location, call Colburn at 802-257-2888. The event is looked at as a way for foster families to mingle.

There's a turkey dinner and Santa Clause delivers all the gifts to the kids, Colburn said. Other items and trinkets can be donated for a "children's shopping table." High school students wrap up gifts kids select to take home. Any leftover gifts are brought to residential facilities.

Colburn is always looking for families who are willing and able to care for infants, have at least one stay-at-home parent and can go on frequent visits to birth parents. Also, foster care and "forever families" for teenagers and young adolescents are being sought.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at

@CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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