It is estimated that 1 in 8 children in the U.S. live in a household with at least one parent with a substance abuse disorder. These are moms and dads who are unable to control their use of drugs or alcohol, and who continue using them even in the face of harmful and often dangerous consequences. In many cases, parents find themselves spending increased time getting, using, and recovering from these substances, rendering them unable to parent.
The cost, for a child, can be access to reliable housing, food, and other basic needs. It can be a lack of privacy, safety, and social support, leading in turn to increased difficulties in school and social settings. For many children of substance abusers, a normal childhood remains just out of reach.
The Choose Joy Foundation was founded on the premise that every child deserves a happy, healthy childhood. Our mission is to restore, in whatever way we can, normalcy to the lives of children affected by substance abuse.
Restoration comes in many shapes and sizes, and often in the form of things many of us take for granted. Sometimes it's a pair of shoes, school supplies, or a warm meal. Sometimes it's a steady, stable connection with a tutor or mentor. Sometimes it's the opportunity to experience Christmas morning for the first time. The Choose Joy Foundation works with social workers, court systems, and educators to identify needs, and then organizes initiatives to meet them.
Growing up is hard enough without the added weight of bearing other people's choices. We believe that we can change the lives of children in our community, and in communities across America, by bringing normalcy, stability, and consistency into their lives.
Choose Joy Foundation began in a courtroom. Founder Joy Christiansen had come as an observer to watch the inner workings of the Deschutes County family drug court. While there, she witnessed children playing on the courtroom floor while their parents went before a judge. This struck a chord with Joy, who had raised her two children as a single mother after leaving their father due to his substance abuse disorder. Thus began a series of troubling questions. What would these children do if their parents ended up in jail? Was there no other safe place for them to go, that they should be here, now? Why should children of parents with substance abuse disorders lose the chance at having a normal childhood through no fault of their own?
Struck by the unfairness of the question, Joy decided to learn more about the problem. What she learned jarred her to action. It was fall, and pulling from her deep roots in the Bend community, she immediately organized a Christmas drive to give children affected by substance abuse a joyful Christmas while also providing them with much-needed basic necessities. And thus, the Choose Joy Foundation was born. Now a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the organization serves children in need in Deschutes County and beyond.