Sara Kruger

Foster care initiative to launch in New York

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Mark Morales, Children’s Ministry Director at Full Gospel Christian Center in Suffolk (Long Island), New York, is leading the newest 1.27. Mark and his wife, Linda are adoptive parents and recently received approval from Full Gospel for the launch. Today, we’re excited to talk with Mark about the initiative.

What inspired you to launch a foster care initiative in New York?
I have always had a heart for kids and have been involved in children’s ministry in some capacity for almost 20 years. My heart’s desire has always been to help children to reach their potential in God. In 2006 while living in Texas, [my wife, Linda, and I] went through the process to become foster parents and then, through divine intervention, we were chosen to adopt a 2-year-old boy who was in Texas Child Protective Services. He became our third and youngest child and has changed our lives. During that time I felt that, while it is incredible to adopt a child from another country, we can’t forget the children in our own backyard that need families. Eight years later I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic to build a house and minister to kids. I left there feeling that I did a wonderful thing, but again I wondered why I needed to go to another country to minster to children when so many kids in my city needed help. It was then that I started researching how we could help New York kids in distress. Through that research we founded Project 1.27 and I knew that we were called by God to start a ministry to reach the children of the Big Apple in foster care.

What will the launch entail?
Our launch is going to be November 2, Orphan Sunday. We plan to roll this out to our church family. Our pastor has sent letters to area pastors to let them know what we are doing. We hope to have a guest speaker that day, and we have partnered with a foster agency, an adoption agency, a mentoring ministry, and The Long Island Heart Gallery with the expectation that they will all be with us that day for our launch with tables set up in our lobby to answer any questions and to show their support of our ministry.

What ideas, if any, will you adopt from your predecessors, like CO’s Project 127?
We have adopted many ideas from Project 1.27. The very foundation of what I would like to see happen in my state at its core is the same as Project 1.27: “A Family for Every Child”. Our Mission Statement is similar: “To Inspire, Recruit and Support Churches and Families to Foster and Adopt Children in their own backyard.” Also like Project 1.27, we hope to have collaborative efforts with area churches.

What new ideas do you hope to implement with New York 1.27?
We will come alongside people who are already doing great things for kids, such as case workers and CASAs, and show our support through prayer and gifts of appreciation during Christmas time. They need to know that what they do for kids is incredible. We have also networked with some group homes in our area and will have the children from these homes come to our church events, such as Harvest party, Christmas party, and Easter celebrations.

How can we be praying for your team, specifically?
I know that this sounds cliché, but I feel we need prayer for wisdom, wisdom to know the steps we need to take and who we need to align with. We need prayer to have churches catch the vision. We also need prayer for funding.

Thanks, Mark! Please join DC127 in praying for this new sister initiative!

Book Review: Ready or Not

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Are you considering becoming an adoptive or foster parent? If so, pick up this book. Over the course of 30 days, Pam Parish, herself a foster parent, will lead you through 30 themes relevant to adoptive or foster parenting. Each chapter will guide you as you think about pursuing foster care or adoption, asking you to consider many aspects of the journey, pointing you to relevant verses in the Bible, asking hard questions, and giving you space to write down your thoughts and feelings. Throughout this devotional, Pam shares from her own experience, encourages you to reflect on your reasons for embarking on this adventure, and makes sure your eyes are wide open before you do so.

ready or not cover

A few highlights:

On day one, Pam points out the Biblical mandate to care for the orphan and the fatherless, but notes that not every Christian’s call is the same in that regard. She writes, “It’s clear that God’s will is for all followers of Christ to take the gospel to the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s His will for everyone to pastor a church. In the same way, it’s God’s will that we care for the orphans, but that doesn’t mean every family is called to adopt. Too often, families confuse God’s whisper to get involved in the cause of orphans as a directive to add an orphaned child to their family. That can lead to heartbreak for even the most well-intentioned family.” You need to be sure of your calling before adding to your family in this way because you will return to the certainty of that calling in the more difficult moments.

Day 11 talks about adoption as legal and permanent. And foster care may not be permanent, but it is also a commitment. She writes, “When a child is placed in your home, you’ve committed to protect them, love them, and provide for them until the time comes for them to return to their family or enter permanency in another way.” Even when it’s really really hard, as a foster parent, you’ve committed to caring for this child. If things aren’t working out, you can’t just send them back. Days when you want to, you’ll need to return to what you know, that you were called to this. “This process isn’t about finding the right child to meet your needs; it’s about being the right parent to meet theirs.”

The point of foster care and adoption is to provide a loving environment for a child whose birth family is unable to. Ultimately, you want the child to adapt and grow in your family. But to do that, she needs to be able to trust you completely. The theme for day 14 is Trustworthy, and it warns you about how children discover whether you are a trustworthy person: they test you. Again and again. They act out. They shut down. They do all kinds of things to find out if there’s anything that will make you give up—and prove yourself untrustworthy in your promise to care for them. You must remain true to your calling to stand by these children and be unshakeable—no matter what they throw at you.

This 30-day journey will bring ideas and concepts to your attention that you might never have considered. It will be an invaluable tool for helping you determine if adoption or fostering is for you and preparing you for some of what lies ahead if you decide it is.

 

Foster care in the news: CASA edition

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  1. Children’s voices heard through CASA volunteers. Are you passionate about what you do? Are you unafraid to ruffle feathers to defend what you believe? Do you voluntarily invest your time, energy and countless car miles in pursuit of justice?
    CASA of Central Virginia volunteer Sunny Simone’s answers would be, yes, yes and I do.
  2. CASA of Union County is changing lives, one child at a time. CASA volunteers unselfishly dedicate their time, energy and, most important, their heart, to Union County’s abused and neglected children currently in foster care. Each of these 405 children deserves to have their voices heard. CASAs, who work with only the child’s best interests in mind, advocate on behalf of each child — whether it be educational, medical, emotional or beyond
  3. First CASA Black Tie affair comes to Richmond. When abused or neglected children are moved by court order to group or foster homes overseen by the state social and legal agencies, they can get lost in these sometimes overburdened systems.As an extra layer of protection, judges appoint “special advocates” who volunteer to watch over individual cases.For many abused children, their count-appointed special advocate (CASA volunteer) will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.
  4. CASA volunteers serve youth in the court system. Sometimes, children get swept into Ravalli County’s justice system through no action of their own, in cases that may involve abuse, neglect, or even exploitation. Others may have been declared “delinquent.”
  5. My journey from pain and fear to love and hope. I was 6 and my sister was 4 when we were taken away from our mom. It was an awful time. We were terrified. But there was one person who stood by us through all the upheaval. She was there for us every time we needed her, making sure we were OK.Her name was Miss Belle. She was our CASA volunteer.
  6. Honoring my grandfather’s memory through CASA. When my sister-in-law told me about a volunteer opportunity with CASA advocating on behalf of children in need, I knew that was how I wanted to give back. I feel in a way I honor my grandfather’s memory through my work with these children.
  7. “Being a CASA is my heart’s work.” When Tammy first heard about the CASA cause while watching an episode of the Dr. Phil Show in 2009, she knew it was for her.
  8. Foster children stories. The followings stories are real and came from the book “Someone There For Me” published by the CWLA Press and edited by National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association. The pictures are royalty free images used to protect the real identity of the foster children.
  9. “Our CASA was our voice.” I believe my focus and my worldview—that it is not the falling that matters, but the rising every time we fall—is in large part due to the attention that my siblings and I received from our CASA volunteer.
  10. “I am the reason you should never give up on a child.” I’d like to share with you a little of how CASA’s powerful commitment to children has influenced my life.

Want more info on becoming a CASA? Check here.

6 ways to help foster kids without becoming a foster parent

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We get it. Not everyone is in a place to be a foster parent right now. So what can you do to help kids in foster care? Quite a bit, actually. Adopt Us Kids offers several ways you can make a difference in the life of a foster kid—without committing to care for one full time:

  1. Train to be a court-appointed special advocate. We’ve written a few posts about this recently, and we’ll have more in coming weeks. You don’t have to be a lawyer or a social worker to speak up for a kid in foster care. You just have to be able to commit to seeing through a case, which typically takes one-and-a-half years. Advocating for a child involves gathering information from all the people in his life and presenting that information to a judge to help determine the best outcome for the child. To qualify, you have to go through training and a background check. Find out more here.
  2. Mentor a child. We talk about mentoring a lot here at DC127. That’s because it can have such an impact on the life of a child in foster care. As with a CASA, a mentor could be the only consistent adult in an itinerant teen’s life. Several programs offer opportunities to invest time in helping a child in foster care succeed. BEST Kids is one of many in the DC area alone. If you’re interested in getting connected as a mentor, send us an email at volunteer@dc127.org, and we’d be happy to help you find the right organization for you.
  3. Offer Your Photography Services. Do you take pride in capturing a telling expression on a face? Or taking fun, candid shots? Foster agencies need you! Often a parent’s first introduction to a child he or she might foster is a picture—and agencies need people to take those pictures! Use this database to find agencies that would benefit from your talents. Or contact the Heart Gallery of America Program, which uses framed photos in its expos and galleries to raise awareness about children waiting to be adopted.
  4. Become a Respite Provider. Foster parents need date nights, too! Do you love hanging out with kids and rue the fact that your nieces and nephews live so far away? Consider getting your kid fix by giving foster parents a break! You can provide temporary relief to a foster family by offering short-term child care. We would love to connect you to agencies and families in need of support- email us at volunteer@dc127.org.
  5. Donate supplies. It’s back-to-school time, and many foster kids won’t get anything new to start the year off right. Contact a local agency to find out how you can help make sure a child in foster care has some shiny new supplies.
  6. Sponsor a Foster Youth’s College Education.  Every year, tens of thousands of youth age out of foster care. They likely do not have family to help them transition to adulthood—or help with college expenses. Foster Care to Success ”connects the public to deserving college-bound foster youth” through a unique sponsorship program.

Book Review: Another Place at the Table

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Another Place at the Table
Kathy Harrison

Karen is a 7-month-old baby girl whose mother can’t kick her drug habit. Lucy is a sweet 8-year-old whose teen mom is too immature to care for her. Danny is a sullen 4-year-old boy whose special needs mom couldn’t care for herself, let alone him. Sara is a 6-year-old who has never known an adult who didn’t abuse her. Kathy and Bruce Harrison welcome all these children and many, many more come into their home, some for a night and some forever. But all are guaranteed a safe and loving home for the duration of their stay.

Kathy and Bruce didn’t set out to become foster parents. They took the training and became certified because it was required in order to adopt two sisters, one of whom Kathy fell in love with when she was a Head Start teacher. When the adoption was finalized, they felt that five children (three biological sons and the two adopted daughters) was enough. But social services kept calling. At first Kathy and Bruce said no. But the sad stories broke their hearts. Kathy knew she could offer what so many of these kids needed. So they started saying yes. And eventually, Kathy left her Head Start job and devoted herself full time to parenting children in foster care.

In this page-turner, Kathy describes in detail what foster parenting is like. She shares the stories of many of the children who have passed through her home, she reveals the inner workings of the foster care system, and she offers nuggets of wisdom learned through trial and error—and certainly not taught in foster care training. She also relates how her children have taught her many truths about the reality of foster care. For example, when Sara arrived on her doorstep, she learned children coming into foster care don’t always have a toothbrush. Or even underwear. And when 3-year-old Tyler is returned to a birth family that still needed so much help, she learned that often, to foster means “learning to be satisfied with giving Band-Aids to children and families who needed intensive care.”

“This book is not intended to shock, although it may do that,” Kathy writes. “It was not written to change public policy. I’m far too much of a realist to expect that. It is only the story of one family’s journey through the maze of a social service system and of the children who unwittingly led the way.”

Kathy pulls you so thoroughly into her world that you’ll find yourself clutching the cover of the book, anxious to learn the fate of her children. And when you turn the final page, you’ll  shake your head in gratitude that foster homes like hers exist to care for the children who so desperately need them. You may even be inspired to join their ranks.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent or supporting a foster family, email us: info@dc127.org. 

 

Redeeming her own past by training CASAs

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Continuing our series about the CASA program, today’s post is about one woman who trains CASAs. As part of their commitment, CASAs agree to pursue continuing education and this woman teaches a class that applies toward that. You can read our other posts about being a CASA here and here

“I am a survivor of the child pornography industry.”

This is how Elizabeth “Libby” Buchanan introduces herself to the audiences she teaches as a CASA trainer. And it’s as difficult to hear as it is to say. She has learned her students must be forewarned about her intro, because if they aren’t, they won’t hear anything she says for the next five minutes. And they need to be tuned in for every minute of her presentation. Even though she herself was never in the foster care system, because of her traumatic childhood, she has valuable insights into the feelings of the children these volunteers will be serving.

When Libby first heard about the CASA program, she knew she wanted to get involved, but she also knew she wouldn’t be able to handle being in courtrooms with perpetrators of violence and neglect against children. It would be too painful, bring back too many memories. CASAs are required as part of their commitment to get annual training, so Libby’s husband suggested she teach a class about helping CASAs understand where the kids in the system are coming from, as part of that continuing education. A friend who worked as a CASA approached her manager, who loved the idea, and Libby stepped into the classroom.

Libby organizes her presentation around helping CASAs understand how the children they’ll be working with are processing their situations. Most CASAs are not alumni of the foster care system. And since they are volunteering their services on behalf of these children, they expect gratitude. “I remind them that these kids are not going to be grateful for their assistance.” They’ve been through so much trauma, been disappointed by so many adults in their lives. A CASA is just one more stranger who gets a say in that child’s life. But, while the youngster may not ever appreciate a CASAs services, that CASA is absolutely essential. He may well be the only consistent adult in that child’s life.

She teaches the CASAs about normalizing, explaining that kids coming from abusive homes need to have “normal” redefined, because they see their abuse and neglect as normal. Often, they’ve never known anything else. They don’t realize their situation is abnormal until they’re taken out of it. “That’s hard for CASAs to understand,” Libby says, noting that children’s desire to return to an abusive situation is similar to the Stockholm Syndrome—an attitude as baffling to caseworkers and others charged with the care of the child as the syndrome is to the public. But the parent-child connection is a powerful one. And often, the child blames himself for being taken away.

She also explains that CASAs must set expectations for proper behavior and grooming for situations like appearing before a judge. And they must tell the child exactly what’s going to happen, what the child can expect. “Unpredictability is the scariest thing in these kids lives,” Libby relates. And often, they’re jerked around from one place to another without any explanation, which makes them feel confused and frightened, and adds to an already traumatic situation.

Another key component of her presentation is stressing the importance of keeping siblings together. Children have already been removed from their parents; their siblings are their last connection to the identity they know. Take away these remaining kin, and they feel utterly alone and abandoned. Libby acknowledges that it’s not always possible to keep siblings together, but she wants CASAs to know that this should be a top priority.

Because Libby speaks out of her experience, teaching is difficult. In fact, at first, she was terrified. “I made lots of people cry because it was so hard and they could tell.” But over time, she has found teaching redemptive. “I enjoy being a help to those who will be so helpful to [the children] assigned to them.”

Libby Buchanan is a Christian writer, teacher, speaker, mother and wife. You can read more about her at her website, libbybuchanan.com

Foster care in the news

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This is a monthly roundup of news and blog posts about foster care and all things related. Come across an interesting article we missed? Email us: info@dc127.org

  1. Removed: a short film about foster care. (video) Originally created for the 168 Film Festival, ReMoved follows the emotional story through the eyes of a young girl taken from her home and placed into foster care.
  2. Every time foster kids move, they lose months of academic progress. When 12-year-old Jimmy Wayne’s parents dropped him off at a motel and drove away, he became the newest member of the North Carolina Foster Care system. Over the next two years in the foster care system, he attended 12 different schools.
  3. Jesus, the judge and the orphan. As lawyers, case workers and court clerks scurried around the court room, we sat waiting – ignorant of the process but eager to see it end. We assumed our role would be minimal, more as a silent presence than an active participant. We were wrong.
  4. San Diego resources available for college-bound teens aging out of foster care system. (video) About 6,500 foster children in San Diego County, and many of them spend years moving from home to home. Each year, 300 will leave the foster care system when they turn 18.
  5. California schools get billions to track, boost foster children’s performance. California is embarking on a first-of-its-kind attempt to improve the academic lives of foster youth by giving schools more money to meet their special learning and emotional needs and holding educators and administrators accountable.
  6. Program helps L.A. foster youth become high school grads. Unlike most of her classmates, Alicia Rodriguez’ birth parents and siblings weren’t there to see her walk across the stage. Instead, her foster mother and sister were in the crowd, along with Aguayo and Hernandez, the Los Angeles County social worker and tutor who had helped her make it to graduation.
  7. They would hide their purses. It’s as if you get a card. It comes with the garbage bag full of your clothes. It’s the result of being a part of something so abnormal that most people don’t know anything about it. It’s not a physical card or stamp on your forehead but it’s always there. It’s always front and center. You’re scary. You’re dangerous. There must be something off about you. After all, you’re a foster kid.
  8. Why you should be a foster family. 9-year-old Ema shares why you should open your home to children in the system.
  9. Fostering failure? A look at the US foster care system. (video) Ronan Farrow meets with three young adults, who have recently “aged out” of the foster care system, as part of larger investigative report on the frightening reality that our foster care system may be setting up hundreds of thousands of young Americans to fail.
  10. House passes adoption incentives package; Senate expected to act soon. The House passed by voice vote last night a bill that could usher in significant reform of the federal role in the adoption of youths in foster care.
  11. Foster care forum highlights barriers to effective programs. A bureaucratic debate over sentence construction is denying health care to young adults who were once in foster care, a round table on child welfare learned Monday.
  12. My journey in foster care: The second most devastating day of my young life. Foster care was never explained to me. At least in a way I could understand at the time. I didn’t know that foster care was a temporary home, and not a permanent one.
  13. A safety net. Who helps local foster children when they age out of the system? No home. No money. No one to show them the way. Standing at a crossroads, with their few belongings packed into a bag, not sure where to go or what to do, is the spot that many local foster children find themselves in when they turn 18 and “age out” of the foster care system.
  14. Want to make a difference? Try foster parenting. Let’s face it: We all fare better with a little stability in our lives. For children whose families are in the throes of crisis, foster families can provide that firm footing.
  15. Across borders, foster youth ask: What’s missing? Alumni of foster care in Seattle and Tokyo believe systems in each country could gain from the voices of young people.

Giving back by being a CASA

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When Ben Crouch retired, he decided he wanted to give back to his community. He found no shortage of options, but he narrowed the choices down by eliminating outlets that involved physical labor, like Habitat for Humanity. “I didn’t want to injure my hands—I’m a bluegrass guitar player!” he says with a chuckle. When he heard about the CASA program, he thought his background as a criminologist might lend itself to that role. He had taught related courses, had a PhD in sociology, and knew something about the function of courts in dealing with problems in society.

He went through the requisite 30 hours of training (and every year he completes a requisite 12 hours of training, as part of which he attends a victimization conference and other local offerings) and then waited to be matched. He initially thought he’d want to work with a young girl. Older children were a bit intimidating and he’d raised two girls, so he figured he knew a little something about them. However, when the agency called, they presented him with a case for a 15-year-old boy who’d been in the foster care system since he was 8 years old. The teen had been in three high schools in one calendar year and had been represented by several different social workers. It was a moment of decision for Ben. He was nervous about representing an older boy. But in the end, he reminded himself that he’d pursued this role because children need an advocate in court. So he agreed to take the case.

When he first began getting to know his charge (we’ll call him Jason), the teen lived in a residential facility because of behavior issues, and they corresponded regularly by snail mail. However, Ben successfully advocated for moving Jason from the residential facility to a foster home—and the responses to his letters stopped. So the teen is in a better place, but Ben doesn’t have nearly as much contact with him.

He does his best by him, though. He says he feels like an uncle toward Jason. He tries to see him once a month, taking him out to eat wherever he wants to go and trying to help the him think realistically. For example, when Jason talks about wanting to get an expensive car, Ben reminds him that pricey rides require good jobs. He talks to the young man’s foster father two or three times a month to check in and make suggestions for extra-curricular activities. And he regularly checks in with Jason’s teachers and counselors, to gather information that will go into the report he presents to the judge every six months, recommending what he feels is the best course of action.

Given his age, the teen will likely be in care until he ages out at 21. Older youth are notoriously hard to place for adoption. So Ben will work to keep him in a good foster home and encourage him to stay in school. He’s been the Jason’s CASA for two-and-half-years and estimates he’s invested 150 hours into the case so far. Despite the fact that permanency is unlikely for this youth, and therefore his case could last another six years, Ben is committed to staying the course with him. “I know the most about this child,” he says. “I hope he’s as prepared as possible to make a life, and a living.”

If you’re interested in being a CASA and making a change in a young person’s life, email us at info@DC127.org and we’ll make sure you get connected. Also, read our post about becoming a CASA.

Help a child in foster care: Become a CASA

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So you want to get involved with foster care, but you’re not in a place to provide a  home for a child in the system right now. And while your heart breaks for these kids and you want to do something for them, maybe you find the idea of mentoring a teenager—or even a first-grader—a little intimidating. There’s another option for you to have considerable impact on the life of a child in foster care: Become a court-appointed special advocate, or a CASA. These volunteers are appointed by a judge to present information in court on behalf of a child in foster care.

Nearly 40 years ago, a judge in Seattle decided he was unable to make well-informed decisions on behalf of the abused and neglected children in his courtroom with only the information he received from the state. He thought these children would be better served if a volunteer advocate was dedicated to each case. Each special advocate would be committed to gathering information about one child (or maybe several, but not the 25 to 40 that each social worker was responsible for) to present to the judge and speak in favor of that child’s best interests. Fifty people responded to his idea and the CASA program was born. Today, 73,000 volunteers in 933 programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia represent 238,000 children.

CASAs come from all walks of life—no need for a legal background. You need never have set foot in a courtroom before or studied law. You must be 21 years old, undergo a background check, complete training, and have the time to appear in court. To Become a CASA, you must go through 30 hours of training, learning about your role associal issues affecting families, child development, and the court process. You will then be offered a case that you can review and take on, or turn down if you don’t feel it’s a good fit. Once matched, you get to know the child, speaking with teachers, counselors, lawyers, social workers, and foster parents, and of course the child himself. You compile as much information as possible and every six months, you present a report to the judge, alongside the other officials working on the child’s case, making recommendations about the best course of action for this child.

As a CASA, when you take on a case, you commit to staying with the child until the case is closed, working to achieve permanency in a stable, loving home if possible. The average case lasts about a year and a half, but some can be shorter, and some can be much longer. You can expect to invest 10 to 15 hours a month on a case. And you can choose whether you want to take on more than one case.

A CASA’s role is different than that of a social worker. Like a social worker, a CASA is working to achieve the best outcome for the child; however, the CASA is dedicated to just that child. In addition to juggling many more cases, a social worker is also concerned with the child’s birth family, helping all members to find solutions to the crises that necessitated foster care to begin with. A CASA is also different than a mentor. Like a mentor, a CASA develops a relationship with the child; but, the CASA’s primary role is to gather information about the child in order to present findings to a judge, to better assist that judge in making decisions in the child’s best interest, and monitoring case plans and court orders, to ensure they are being implemented. The CASA doesn’t go on social outings with the child and doesn’t have a part in the child’s day to day life.

CASAs are effective. According to a 2006 federal audit, children with CASAs are less likely to spend more than three years in foster care, saving taxpayers close to $50 million annually—and more importantly, finding permanency with a loving family faster. Judges have reported that they highly value the presence of a CASA, and in fact, often the information the social worker presents was received from the CASA.

Like a mentor, a CASA might be the only consistent adult in the life of a child in foster care. Children in the system bounce from foster home to foster home, attend many different schools, and can be shuffled among several social workers and lawyers. A CASA can provide stability and the assurance that at least one adult cares what happens.

If you’re interested in becoming a CASA, check out the website.

Tune in Monday to read about a CASA.

Q&A with a mentor: Manoj Sathyaraj

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Football Summer Camp 18th  to 22nd  July 2011

What inspired you to become a mentor?
When I first attended an event for the DC Family and Youth Initiative, I wasn’t sure what my role would be and what I wanted to do with the teens. However I soon realized that I needed to do something. The more time I spent with the teens, the more I realized that mentoring was more than an assigned role; it was a role I grew into. It was an opportunity to reflect on my past and realize the importance of the mentors that I had growing up and the important role they played in making me who I am today. I also realized that when one does not face some of the challenges our young people in foster care face, we take the mentors in our formative years for granted. What surprised me was that I got as much if not more out of mentoring our young people than I thought I would be giving.

What is the most rewarding aspect of mentoring?
The most rewarding aspect of mentoring has been reaching that point where you don’t need to reach out to a teen because the teen reaches out to you. I find that during those moments you get affirmation that you are a resource that a young person has come to trust despite past experiences with adults who have let them down. That young person is willing to give you a chance to step up and fill a void.

What is the most challenging aspect of mentoring?
One of the most challenging aspects of being a mentor is realizing that for our young people, mentoring is more than a “do it when you have time” role. Making them a priority so that they know that they can rely on you being there when needed can at times be a challenge, but when you see them over a hurdle that life throws their way or when you help them navigate important decisions in their life, it is a very rewarding experience.

What do you know now that you wish you would’ve known when you first started mentoring?
It would have been nice to have understood that as a mentor, it is my opportunity to help a young person navigate life’s challenges and be a cheer leader, but just as important it is my responsibility to hold them accountable for their missteps in a compassionate and constructive manner. The former is easy; the latter requires an understanding of the situation and the manner in which it is done can ultimately strengthen the mentor/mentee bond. This includes giving them the space to analyze, internalize, and respond to your suggestions, opinions, and alternative approaches to a given situation.  Additionally once I connect with a young person, I find that helping them make a similar connection with other adults is as important as nurturing my relationship with them since I don’t have all the answers and my approach to a given situation may not necessarily be the best one. Actively helping build a network of mentors for a young person helps them have a broader perspective on life and their future.

What’s your favorite thing to do with a mentee?
There is no one thing I like to do with a mentee. Each one is different and I enjoy finding that one thing that helps foster communication between us so that we can have fun, learn, and discuss challenges they are facing and successes they want to celebrate. Activities such as cooking, gardening, hiking, and just hanging out with friends and family doing “normal” things have been helpful to foster this goal.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can mentor a teen in foster care, shoot us an email at info@dc127.org.

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