by Sue Wyninegar
Eighteen years ago, the Department of Clinical Social Work at City of Hope began the Adopt-a-Family program to help patients and their families in need during the holiday season. The department enlisted employees to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families by donating toys, gifts, cash and other needed items to the adopted families.
The program has expanded considerably since its inception. In 2005, City of Hope employees adopted 68 families, enriching the lives of both givers and receivers. Usually, one family is assigned to each department participating in the program. Before a family is assigned to a department for adoption, family members are asked about their wishes and needs. This list is given to the department and allows department members to personalize gifts and work to fill their adopted family’s wishes.
”Adopt-a-Family is a win-win program for both patients and their families and City of Hope employees,” said Nellie Garcia, director of the Clinical Social Work Department. “Staff members are able to share their blessings with these families, and the involvement of the patients and families helps distract them from any anxiety they may be experiencing.”
Occasionally, a department or group is able to adopt two families, as was the case this year for Communications. A patient and family originally not included in the program underwent a significant change in financial status. The father had been recently laid off, but the parents still wanted to make Christmas special for their four children. They requested help from City of Hope. It was well past the deadline for the Adopt-a-Family program to accept them as participants; however, a kind-hearted Communications Department vendor heard about the program and donated $500, paving the way for a speedy family adoption. Communications staff members were able to supply additional support and allow the family to fully participate in the program.