The Gift Foster Teens Really Want (but Rarely Ever Get)


I’m not a girly girl in the least and yet somehow, in my long-ago middle school days, I fell under the spell of powders and eye shadows, lip gloss and blushes. Dressing up my face and then donning my ghastly plaid shirt-and-jeans combo du jour — yes, I’m dating myself; pay no mind, young millennials — somehow made my “look” complete.

As a teen, Jenna Goodwin was just as wedded to her cosmetics, if not more so.

“When you’re in a situation like that, it definitely gave me that extra confidence I needed,” Goodwin told me.

That situation Goodwin is referring to? Being a foster child.

“There’s a stigma when other people find out you’re a foster child but being able to feel beautiful and confident gave me that ability to hold my head high, even when it wasn’t the greatest of times,” said Goodwin, now a 27-year-old mom living Nevada, Iowa who blogs at mommyjenna.com.

Goodwin wasn’t the only former foster child I heard from. Another told me how wearing mascara and lip gloss boosted her confidence and made her feel less embarrassed about being in foster care. And a woman who volunteers with foster children told me that one of the teens she works with finds indulging in beauty products — even something as simple as nail polish — to be an “escape from all that’s going on in her life and the craziness.”

I’ll confess that, until recently, I was completely ignorant of the idea that beauty products could be that beneficial to teens with unstable home lives. When it came to kids in need, I assumed donations of food and clothing would be at the top of many wish lists.

But the significance of makeup does make sense. When I “painted on” my face each morning as a teen, I imagined my supposedly stylish look to be somewhat on par with those cool, sophisticated girls on the silly, adolescent-targeted TV shows I used to watch. (I won’t name them for the sake of not dating myself again but, no, none of the shows had a Kardashian in it.) Feeling “put together” gave me more confidence, which is something anyone grappling with pop quizzes, unrequited crushes, cafeteria politics and, ahem, puberty could always use.

The thing is, my problems were just typical teen problems. I had a loving, stable home life — and I still craved cosmetics. I can only imagine how much more pressing the desire for beauty products is for teens who are less fortunate — teens who desperately want to fit in, to forget their chaotic home lives for at least a few hours, but don’t always have the means to do so.

Fortunately, at least one charity is ready to help, providing more than 100 New York City teens free bags stuffed with beauty products.

“With the holidays approaching I know it means a lot to me that these teens will each get a present,” said Lara Eurdolian, the founder of the style website Pretty Connected. “It can be a self-conscious time and we want these youths to feel good about themselves and know someone is thinking of them.”

Since last February, Pretty Connected and the charity Family-to-Family have been working together on the program Share Your Beauty, which provides unused, unopened beauty products for women who are homeless or victims of domestic violence. The products are donated by brands as well as editors and bloggers who “get an insane amount of beauty products that they don’t know what to do with,” Eurdolian said.

This month, Share Your Beauty’s list of beneficiaries expanded to include 130 foster teens through a new partnership with the New York-based agency Good Shepherd Services.

The teens received LeSportsac bags stuffed with products — and it wasn’t just girls getting the gifts. 45 of the recipients will be boys, whose bags are filled with men’s hair grooming products, shower gels, moisturizers, deodorants and colognes. Girls, meanwhile, will get hair and body products, lipsticks, eyes shadows, blushes, nail polish, and more.

I know the gifts won’t be a cure-all for the all the hardships the teens face, but I hope, as Eurdolian said, the lipsticks, colognes, and more do make them feel good about themselves. Having confidence is what’s truly beautiful, even if it takes a few dabs of blush to get there.

If you’re interested in donating to the Share Your Beauty program, email shareyourbeauty@family-to-family.org. Learn more about the program here.


Image courtesy of ThinkStock

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