Mentoring

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Month of Prayer, Week 2: For children in foster care and the families caring for them

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Last week, we prayed for our city, asking that the church steps up for vulnerable children and families. This week, join us in praying for the children in foster care and the families who care for them. Thanks to DC127 Church Coordinator Megan Roberts for writing the blog!

For the children in foster care and those caring for them:

In DC alone, around 1,000 children and teens are living in foster care and over 100 of these children need to be adopted. DC is also currently facing a shortage of foster homes to care for these children.

In DC, 95% of children in the foster care system are African American, compared to 24% nationally, reflecting incredible disproportionality. As we pray for foster care in DC, let’s not forget we must also pray and advocate for racial justice in the systems that affect these children’s lives.

In Matthew 18, as Jesus’ disciples ask him who the greatest in the Kingdom is. Jesus uses a child to remind us that in heaven, those who humble themselves, not those who seek exultation, will be considered the greatest. He makes this bold declaration:

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me”

This week, will you join us in praying for:

  • Families currently fostering or in the licensing process: Pray that they would find the resources they need to foster or adopt and care for children well. Pray that God continually provides the strength, support, and resources they need to thrive. Pray that churches would be strong sources of support for families.
  • 
The children in foster care: Pray that each child would receive the comfort of Christ, and that their stay in foster care will be short. Pray that children will be reunified with their families, and for the children who need to be adopted, pray that an adoptive home is found quickly.
  • New families created through adoption and foster care: Pray that God will bind them together and they would be full of Christ-like love, joy, and peace.
  • More foster and adoptive homes: Pray for more people to step up to foster and adopt from foster care until there are enough homes for every child, and pray that the churches of Washington, DC will be able to support these families.
  • For justice in the systems surrounding foster care: Pray for other government systems to uplift and care for the poor.

Thank you for praying with us!

Interested in finding more ways of helping your city?

Here are resources to help you get more involved:

 

Watch a powerful 4-minute video from performance poet Shaun Welcome, sharing stories of children in foster care:

 

Watch four successful college graduates talk about their lives post foster care and the advice they have for current kids in the foster care system:

10 Questions About Being A Family Friend, Answered

Posted by | Blog, Mentoring, Safe Families for Children, Supporting Families | No Comments

You might have heard us talk about Family Friends, and when you hear that term, it might be a little confusing. Have no fear, this blog is here.

Family Friends have one main goal- build an intentional friendship with a parent experiencing a tough time, encourage them, and be a listening ear.

So, what does this look like exactly? Instead of us explaining it, we brought in one of our wonderful Family Friends, Robyn Brooks. Robyn was one of our first Family Friend’s and she took some time to tell us what she’s learned through this process.

First off, what is a Family Friend?

“A Family Friend does just what it sounds like- becomes a friend. The difference is you’re intentionally forming a friendship with a parent that may have no one else in their life they can rely on. So you become that person they can vent to, bounce ideas off of, or just talk about life with. Like any friendship, it takes time to build a relationship so you have to be consistent and in contact on a regular basis. It doesn’t always have to be in person though. You can also text or talking on the phone.”

What drew you to the Family Friend role?

What activities do you do with the parent you’re paired with?

“We have met at a park and let the kids play while we chat.  I went to my Family Friend’s child’s birthday party.  We’ve met up at church and had lunch afterwards.  The activity really isn’t as important as a listening ear.  I am a mother myself (although you don’t have to be a parent to be a Family Friend), and I have had, and continue to have, times as a parent where I am frustrated, confused, or not sure how to proceed.  For example, I wonder: How do you address disobedience in a firm, yet gentle manner with a child who is very sensitive and has a strong desire to please and is easily upset with perceived parental disappointment?

I bring up my parenting struggles because in that time of learning and adjusting to your child’s needs, the last thing I have desired is a lecture or an article to read.  I have needed a listening ear to talk to, to tell stories about my child, and help remember that parenting is a long-term game.  The biggest asset of the Family Friend role is the ability to be a sounding board and provide small nudges after the relationship is established.”

What does a typical month look like as a Family Friend?

“It varies and we are still finding our rhythm.  My relationship may be a bit atypical, in that the biological mother actually has her children full time, so our activities are planned with them in mind.  I call once per week or every other week.  I work full time and we have struggled to find a consistent phone chatting time.  We have had some success when I am able to call on my lunch break.  When the weather was warmer, we were able to meet in person once or twice per month at a park.”

What is the time commitment for a Family Friend?

“I usually make some contact with my parent, whether it be through text, phone call, or email, 3-4 times a month. Sometimes it’s as simple as texting that I’m thinking about her or that I hope she is doing well. I try to meet her in person once or twice a month. In the beginning, we met more in-person to get to know each other better and form a solid relationship. I also pray for her and her family on a regular basis.”  

Did you have a connection with the parent right away?

“Building a relationship takes time. Just because a parent has fallen on hard times doesn’t mean they are going to trust you right away- you have to earn it. My parent and I had a few similarities right from the start (we live close to each other, both have 2 young children, etc.) so we talked about that a lot at the beginning. What’s important is that I was open and honest and asked questions when I didn’t understand something. I also made a point to be consistent. Even if I didn’t hear back from her right away, I wanted to make sure she knew I really cared about her and that I wasn’t going to leave her.

One nice connection we have had is through the children.  At the conclusion of our first visit, we walked from the park to the parking garage, about 4 blocks.  Our daughters, who are very close in age, held hands the whole time. That was very sweet.”

Where do you go if you need help or have a question?

“First, I go to my Family Coach. He’s great about responding, but if I can’t get a hold of him I contact Safe Families staff.”

What’s the difference between a Family Friend and Family Coach?

“As a Family Friend, I form an intentional friendship with a biological parent. I talk with her regularly and give her a place to vent, ask questions, and talk through situations. Family Coaches also talk with parents, but they take a more formal role as they coordinate and talk about goals and progress. While Family Coaches work with everyone involved with a placement, Family Friends primarily focus on the parent.”

How much interaction do Family Friends have with the parent’s children?

“As a Family Friend, my main focus is on supporting the parent. Because we both have children, we often meet at a park so our children can play while we’re talking. My parent has also started coming to church with me so I see her whole family there.”

How has being a Family Friend impacted your relationship with God and your family?

“I have found this role fulfilling.  Having small children, it can sometimes feel like I don’t have much to give outside of keeping the household running.  Prioritizing being a Family Friend sometimes means saying no to preschool parties my kids are invited to or rearranging a weekend to be able to meet.  Doing that – reordering for the sake of being a Family Friend – reminds me that my life SHOULD look like that – reordered to love others as I would love myself.  Hearing the details of another’s life helps compassion grow and makes me ask God, “how else can I serve you?”

 

To become a Family Friend fill out a short application here. Then, you’ll attend a training session. You can find the next training session on our event calendar. Feel free to email Jessica at jessica@dc127.org with any questions.

What is a Family Coach Anyways?

Posted by | Blog, Mentoring, Safe Families for Children, Supporting Families, Uncategorized | No Comments

zac and savannah Dc127 picYou might have heard us talk about “Family Coaches” or maybe you haven’t. And when you hear the term “Family Coach” you might just be confused. Have no fear, this blog is here.

Family Coaches = awesome. Family Coaches are what make Safe Families a movement, and they make it possible for us to continually be serving new families and not put a cap on how many families our network can serve.

Family Coaches have three main goals:
1. Make sure the children are safe
2. Make sure Host Homes have the support they need
3. Make sure biological parents have the resources and support they need to move forward

So, what does this look like? What does the Family Coach role entail exactly? Instead of us explaining it, we brought in one of our star Family Coaches, Zac Murphy. Zac has been working with Safe Families in DC for about a year and he’d like to tell you a little about his role as a Family Coach and what he’s learned:

First off, what is a Family Coach?

“When a Host Homes cares for a child, they need support and help coordinating with the child’s parents. That’s where I come in. I visit the Host Home and children on a regular basis, ensure everyone is safe, and make sure the hosts have things like babysitters, clothing, bedding, etc. We talk about how they’re feeling and I update them on the children’s parent’s progress. I also work with biological parents to ensure they are moving forward and have access to needed resources.

Family Coaches keep track of all the moving pieces for a particular placement. Whether it’s someone to talk to or a tangible resource- communication is key and I make sure that’s happening. I report directly to Safe Families staff and can come to them with any questions or concerns.”

Why did you want to be a Family Coach?

Do you need a background in Social Work or Case Management to be a Family Coach?

“I’m a paramedic, so I’m used to working one-on-one with people in what can sometimes be stressful situations. That being said, I have no background social work or case management. The most important thing is that I like working with people, I’m organized, encouraging, and can rally people together. Many people with backgrounds in social service gravitate towards this role, but it’s certainly not a requirement. Family Coaches attend a training to prepare them for the role and they are supported by staff.”

How much time does each case take?

“I usually spend 1-3 hours a week working on stuff for Safe Families. I check in with my Host Home weekly, whether that be in-person or on the phone, and talk with the biological parent at least bi-weekly. Depending on the week, I may also spend time coordinating tasks such as arranging babysitters or transportation, finding resources, or attending a meeting with mom. I only work on one placement at a time, though.”

What tools and supports are provided to Family Coaches?

“I talk with Safe Families staff a lot. If I ever have a question or concern all I have to do is call or email and I get a response shortly after. I also have access to a huge database where I can look up resources all across the city. Before I started Coaching, I went through a day long training that prepared me for the role and gave me lots of resources to look back on.”

Who do Family Coaches have the most interaction with?

“As a Family Coach I get to interact with just about everyone. I talk with my Host Home weekly to make sure they have everything they need and I also get to interact with the children during my in-person visits. I talk with the placing parents bi-weekly during my check ins and sometime I interact with Resource Friends, if a family needs something. In addition, I speak with Family Friends to make sure they’re doing well. I also have more interaction with Safe Families staff then the other volunteers on my team.”

What does a typical week look like for you?

What’s the difference between a Family Coach and a Family Friend?

“Family Friends focus on being friends with the biological parent- they are really there just for the parents. They talk with them at least once a week and give parents a place to vent, ask questions, and talk through situations. Family Coaches also talk with parents, but it’s in a little bit more of a formal role since I coordinate the whole placement. While Family Coaches work with everyone involved with a placement, Family Friends primarily focus on the biological parent.”

How has being a Family Coach impacted you and your relationship with God?

“My time as a Family Coach has been very rewarding. I love how I get to see the families we serve progress forward over time and embrace community. It’s also great to witness the Host Homes living out biblical hospitality and loving on people in their neighborhoods.  God has been teaching me to put my assumptions aside and instead see people through His eyes, which has deepened my relationship with Him.”

 

Interested in being a Family Coach? Email us at volunteer@dc127.org today!

 

 

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.

Three things to know about mentoring

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Monday, we highlighted a District mentoring organization, BEST Kids. Today we have a guest post by Meg Biallas, who lives, works and mentors in Washington, D.C. and attends National Community Church. Follow her on Twitter @megbiallas and read more on her blog at Capital Comment.

mentoring

“EveryONE can do ONE thing.”

It was a phrase that had echoed over and over in my head the past  year. The first time I heard it was through a church small group led  by Jason and Shelly Yost in fall 2011. The focus of the group was to  learn about the magnitude of the orphan issue—there are an  estimated 167 million orphans in the world—and learn how, as  Christians, we can be part of the solution.

Through the book and discussion, I was initially overwhelmed. What could I, a young single professional, do to be part of the solution?

That’s when I remembered the phrase that kept coming back to me from small group: every ONE can do ONE thing. Since I don’t have the capacity to adopt, I knew one thing I did have was time, time to invest in someone else’s life. As it turned out, the “Orphanology” small group was the catalyst for me to become a mentor.

Together with three friends, I formed a girls mentoring club through a DC community center. Once a month, we gather together with middle school girls with one simple goal: have fun together.

It’s been a humbling process, and I’m certainly not an expert. But over the past year, I’ve realized a few basic things:

  • Mentoring requires flexibility and patience. Sometimes mentees don’t show up to an event on time. Sometimes an activity doesn’t go as planned. That’s where flexibility is absolutely key.
  • Mentoring takes time. My mentoring program asks for a one-year commitment. Why? Because one of the goals of mentoring is to build into a child’s life, consistently, over a period of time. With consistency comes deep relationship, trust, and friendship with the child.
  • Most of all, mentoring is fun. I have opportunities to be a kid again. Crafting? Yes! Silly sleepovers? I’m in. In its purest form, mentoring is about building a relationship with a child that is fun, supportive, and encouraging.

My hope and prayer is that the thousands of young people who live and work in DC, attend networking happy hours, and maybe walk through halls of power, would consider investing in the life of a child.

EveryONE can do ONE thing, however small. Maybe for you, mentoring is that thing.

Mentoring: BEST Kids

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DC desperately needs foster families, but we understand that not everyone is in a position to foster or adopt right now. And while you might be interested in helping foster and adoptive families in other ways, many of you don’t know any foster or adoptive families, so it’s difficult to contribute to meal rotas or buy clothes.

But there’s one thing most everyone can do, and that’s become a mentor.

Today, we’re excited to tell you about BEST kids, a mentoring program in DC that, according to their brochure, “promotes better futures for youth in DC’s child welfare system by developing supporting one-on-one mentoring relationships between the youth and caring, consistent adults.” Sounds like most mentoring programs, right? But BEST kids is unique in a few ways. First, BEST kids believes in early intervention, so the program serves children as young as 6 years old. Think the idea of mentoring an adolescent is intimidating? Hanging out with a first grader wouldn’t be, right? Also, while many mentoring programs are site based, with mentors meeting with their mentees at a group site, BEST kids is community based. Sites for the larger monthly group gatherings change each month, and mentors are encouraged to decide with their mentees where to meet during their weekly get-togethers.

BEST kids is also unique in that it only works with children who are in foster care. At Foster the City, District Church Pastor Aaron Graham spoke about how important mentor relationships are for kids in foster care. Many of these kids are bouncing from foster home to foster home and enrolling in one school only to have to leave and enroll in another and then another, and sometimes they even change case workers. Aaron noted that a mentor might well be the only consistent adult in a child’s life during that child’s time in foster care. (Children in foster care spend a median of nearly three years in the system in DC.)

So consider becoming a mentor. It does require a time commitment—BEST kids mentors must be at least 21 and must be able to commit at least 10 hours a month for 15 months—but you’ll be making  a difference in the life of a child who desperately needs to know he’s not forgotten.

Love. Don’t fix.

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I’m a fixer. I always have been. I’m certainly not talking about being a handy-person who fixes things around the house. Currently, a stack of books is holding up my TV unit because I was too lazy to go and get a missing part.

No, I like to fix problems. It’s really hard for me to hear a problem and not go into instant action mode where I strategize the clear next steps and who needs to do what and how we (mainly me) are going to solve this problem. This mentality works well when you’re on a road trip and your 12-passenger van doesn’t start in the middle of Wyoming, or you realize that you’ve locked the keys and three dogs in your car (I got the little one to jump on the lock). In those moments, my fix-it-ness is on full speed and I’d like to think I’m good person to have around. But unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well to people. In fact, as no big surprise to anyone, when I listen to friends and all I can think about is how their problem could be solved, I’m not being a true friend. And if I’m honest, I’m guilty of this, and just how guilty recently came to my attention.

Last week I got back from a trip to Mbabane, Swaziland, where I used to work on a project that partnered with a center for orphaned and vulnerable children. We worked to find school sponsors for the center’s kids and would fill other needs as they arose.

This time around I was going simply to visit and see friends, but the heartbreaking stories didn’t go away and there I was without the fix-it protection of the project. I went to sleep the first night, well, I laid down and pretended to sleep because of jet lag, bashing myself for trekking across the ocean. I wanted purpose. I wanted to start Swaziland127. I wanted to fix.

But this is prideful, isn’t it? It’s rather arrogant and self-centered. I realized listening only to arrive at a place where I could help was not actually listening at all.

It became a challenging two weeks not because of any work I was doing (I wasn’t working- it really was a vacation), but because God continually brought me to a place where I had to love. Not love and solve, or love and fix, or love and make better. Just love and receive love.

And sometimes that love included buying a bag of groceries or a sweater, but it also meant sitting and watching an episode of Magnum P.I., playing a hundred games of crazy eights (shamefully losing to an eight-year-old), and sharing my hurts and worries after listening with love to those of my friends.

Owethu, the smug eight-year-old and reigning crazy eights champion of the house.

Owethu, the smug eight-year-old and reigning crazy eights champion of the house.

My time in Swaziland is just an example of a larger pattern across my life, and one I think a lot of us fall into. In relationships with siblings, significant others, friends, or people we’re serving or mentoring, we really do love them deeply and often through the planks of our own eyes, see opportunities for growth and want to fix them until they arrive at a place we’ve set in our mind.

There is also often fear in this. “What if I become a friend/mentor/leader/foster parent and I don’t know how to help them?” I recently began mentoring a wonderful young woman and I have certainly asked myself this question. What if I don’t know what to say? What if she has a problem I don’t know how to deal with? What if I don’t know what to do? But this is that fix-it mentality where the goal of the relationship is to arrive at a destination, rather than being in a relationship where we both love and receive love.

And could you imagine if that fix-it relationship was what relationships were really supposed to be? Who would ever enter one with that sort of pressure?

The other (of many) fallacies in this fix-it relationship mindset is the underlying thought that healing and growth can only come from a strategized plan and set out next steps. This sounds funny to say out loud. In fact, I feel rather foolish. But I fall into this belief again and again and again… and again.

Realizing this is actually quite freeing. When we allow ourselves simply to love and be loved, we remove the self-centeredness of being the fixer and appreciate what each of us has to offer. We learn from each other, grow, heal, and shape. But first we have to love.

-From Chelsea, DC127 Director

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