Workship Memories: "Foster Children Receive Christmas Cheer, Gifts"

Written by Ava Van de Water, Palm Beach Post, 1988

Santa Claus made an early appearance Saturday to deliver Christmas gifts to about 300 special children.

Among them was 13-month-old Michael, a foster child whose mother was a drug addict.

"He was a cocaine baby," foster mother Pat Beasley said. "He (suffers from) sleeplessness and a lot of respiratory problems."

But Michael's problems don't discourage Pat and husband Charles Beasley, who hope to adopt Michael Jan. 13. It's been almost a year since the Beasleys took custody of Michael, who was born six weeks early and weighed only 4 pounds.

The Beasleys were among 500 parents and children participating in the Palm Beach County Foster Parents Association annual Christmas program at the Gold Coast Baptist Church in suburban West Palm Beach. The gifts were made possible by the Toys for Tots program sponsored by the local U.S. Marines Corps reserve.

Many of the foster families attending the festivities Saturday said they depend on the Foster Parents Association for support. Some have temporary custody of children who are victims of physical or sexual abuse or whose drug- addicted parents are fighting to get them back.

Allan and Janet Lifshin said they attend more support-group meetings than some foster or adoptive parents because their son T.J. is black and they are white.

"We're concerned about his future, so we've taken him to support groups," Janet Lifshin said. "We're sensitive to what might happen."

The Lifshins have had many foster children but decided to adopt T.J., now 2 years old. He was a mere two days old when the Lifshins got custody of him. "They just said he was left in the hospital," Allan Lifshin said. "I always knew there were (enough homeless) kids out there that we didn't need to bring anymore into the world."

Among the many volunteers helping the Marines Saturday were 35 Palm Beach Altantic College students from the college's workship program -- a group community volunteer program. The students helped unload and distribute gifts, serve dinner and clean up.