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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: December 10, 2013


Deadline Extended to Help Make the Holidays Special for Children and Seniors

NEW CASTLE (Dec. 10, 2013) - Their stories will touch your heart. A family of six will celebrate their final Christmas together because the father, who is the provider for the family, has terminal cancer. A grandmother, who must raise four grandchildren while both parents are incarcerated, has only a small pension and Social Security to support the family. A single mother of five, who is homeless after fleeing a domestic violence situation, lost her job due to unstable housing.

With even more people seeking help from the state's Holiday Adopt-A-Family program in just the past few weeks, additional donors are needed to share their kindness - and holiday gifts - for hundreds of Delaware children and seniors living in low-income households. To meet the need, the deadline to "adopt" a family has been extended, and all gift cards and gifts must be delivered to an Adopt-A-Family Office by Dec. 19.

Each holiday season, donors are anonymously matched to a senior or family of one or more children through the Holiday Adopt-A-Family program. Adopt-A-Family provides the donor with the age and gender of each child in the family and a brief description of the circumstances that led to their need for assistance. The donor then provides gift cards or certificates for the head-of-household to use in buying holiday gifts. The recommended gift is $100 to $125 per child, with a gift certificate for the parent optional but thoughtful. The program is coordinated by the Human Services Council, Inc., in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Services.

"When the need is greatest, Delawareans always step forward to help," Gov. Jack Markell said. "This is an opportunity to join with others at work, school, your place of worship, or at home to help those who are at risk of doing with very little this holiday season. Adopt-A-Family showcases the best of our community and the best of the holiday spirit." In Delaware, 804 children, including 516 in New Castle County and 288 in Kent and Sussex counties, are awaiting adoption. There are also approximately 10 seniors across the state who need help from donors. So far, almost 1,000 children, and more than 110 seniors and individuals with disabilities have been adopted.

The reasons why many families need the help of Adopt-A-Family are often heart-breaking. "My daughter abandoned her four children on my doorstep in May. We are struggling to make ends meet and to provide for the children. My husband is collecting a Social Security check while I am receiving a very small pension of less than $600 per month. The children are struggling with the fact that their mommy has left them and their father is incarcerated."

"It is the personal connection that has always been the hallmark of Adopt-A-Family," said Robert Broesler, Senior Administrator for the Office of Community Services, which oversees the Adopt-A-Family program. "While maintaining confidentiality, we create a bridge that gives the donor a feel for who they are helping, while the families or seniors may write a personal thank-you note which closes the loop."

For families who have benefited in the past from Holiday Adopt-A-Family, the words of thanks are just as poignant:

"Across the state, we know the generous spirit of Delawareans," Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said. "During these challenging economic times, please consider donating a gift card or gift certificate to help children, families or seniors experience a happier holiday season. No gift is too small. Together, we can combine our resources to provide a happier holiday season for our neighbors in need."

In 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 16 percent of Delawareans lived below the poverty line. In October 2013, more than 154,000 Delawareans qualified for food assistance and more than 212,000 people receive Medicaid. Delaware's unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in October 2013.

To "adopt" an individual or family in:

Families who are adopted come to each location to receive their gifts.

Sponsorship is easy and rewarding, one sponsor recently wrote, "Enclosed is my gift of $200 for 2 children's Christmas gifts. It is lovely to imagine the joy I might be helping to bring to a family in need this year. May God bless them and you (Santa's helper) during this holiday season of 2013."

Year-round, the Adopt-A-Family program aids families in crisis - those struggling with illness, homelessness, domestic violence, poverty or unemployment. The program, begun in 1973, is coordinated by the Division of State Service Centers in all three counties.

For more information about Adopt-A-Family, go to

For reporters who need more information about Adopt-A-Family, contact Catherine Fox, Marketing and Media Coordinator, at the State Office of Volunteerism, at (302) 255-9745 or 302-494-1440 or Jill Fredel, Director of Communications at DHSS, at (302) 255-9047.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.