Pop-Up Birthday Makes Memorable Celebrations For Foster Kids

Children who have moved from place to place during their time in the foster care system may never have had a memorable birthday party – or any kind of party at all.

By Joy DiazAugust 6, 2018 10:25 am|

If you’re a parent, you will attest that planning a birthday party for the kids takes time, money and a ton of energy. Before you can get to the singing and opening of presents, you have to choose a theme. Then, you prepare the food and plan to have some sort of entertainment.

Of course, the party doesn’t have to be fancy. The idea, though, is to make it memorable. But there are kids who have never had a party, let alone a memorable.

The day Niki Laden celebrated her baby’s first birthday, she noticed her oldest was having a fit. Laden retells the story from her living room, where there’s classical music playing. Laden says, that day her 14-year old blew up and started cursing her out.

“She became visibly upset, became very angry,” Laden says.

One thing you must know is that both of Laden’s kids were part of the foster care system. So, she knew this episode was rooted in some sort of trauma, but she couldn’t figure out what

“So, I do a lot of creative discipline – because you kinda have to,” Laden says. “And so, I said ‘you’re really angry. I’m really angry. Let’s do something about this. We’re going to hug each other and we’re going to run – while hugging each other – around this building twice.’”

It was absurd but the two gave it a shot.

The teenager was barefoot. So, Laden took off her shoes too. Soon, they were laughing

“It wasn’t very long at all – we were both hysterical,” she says. “Problem was forgotten. Later on, we sat down and talked. That’s when I found out she had never had a birthday party ever in her life.”

Sometimes children in the foster care system are not celebrated because they move often from home to home – or because parents are taking care of more essential needs. Other times – celebrations can be overlooked because the children arrive with no planning whatsoever.

“The one that stands out in my mind was – I got an emergency placement at 2 in the morning on Christmas Eve night – it was a five-year old little boy and his biggest concern was, ‘was Santa going to be able to find me?’”

Who to call? What to do?

Enter Laila Scott.

“Well, welcome! This is Pop-Up Birthday! This is our bright, happy space where there’s always a party going on!” she says.

Joy Diaz

Scott doesn’t work for Santa, so Christmas is not her specialty. The former business and ecommerce expert now specializes in throwing amazing birthday parties for children in the foster care system. But, she doesn’t do it alone. Her team-mate, a former environmental scientist named Coleen Garland, says they try to be like “fairy-god-mothers.”

“We can make it happen,” Garland says. “And, have it be Pinterest-perfect for them and the foster care parent just sits back and enjoys it with the child – instead of having another stressful thing to do.”

Their non-profit is called Pop-Up Birthday.

They work surrounded by brand new toys, clothes, sparkly crowns, magic wands, books, snacks and colorful wrapping paper. And, what Scott and Garland do is pack a full-blown party – cake included – in a box. About 100 every month

Pop-Up serves a number of counties in Central Texas. But, they’re eager to grow. Scott says her dream is that no child in the U.Sl. has to carry the trauma Laden’s daughter had. She hopes new Pop-Up chapters start all over Texas.

“If it’s something that truly moves you – start it in Abilene – and I would love to help,” Garland says.

She would also love to have donations. New hardcover books in Spanish and books for teenagers are specially needed.