I stood there quietly, my hands covering my eyes. I was smack dab in the middle of a families’ living room, unsure of what would happen next as with this family, interactions had historically become volatile. I was counting to 30 in my head while listening intently for a sign that my intervention may be needed. I heard my 16 year old client attempting to help his adoptive mom find a hiding spot, trying unsuccessfully to whisper as he walked her through various options. Suddenly, and without warning, laughter erupted from across the room.
Category: Voice of an FCNI Staff
While sitting in the theater waiting for David Sedaris to take the stage at a recent storytelling event, my friend, who was sitting next to me, was scrolling through her Facebook feed. She tipped the screen towards me to share a precious entry a mom had posted about her five year old daughter’s new playtime activity. Her sweet, adorable girl was pictured “playing office’; with a keyboard, thick books stacked around her, and hair ties available for those heavy moments of concentration.
“We all need someone who inspires us to do better than we know how.”
Why am I so passionate about mentoring?
Being a mentor to anyone is not easy but being a mentor to a child or youth who’ve experienced trauma and/or instability, can be especially difficult. Fulfilling this important role for a child or youth who is healing from various hurts such as neglect, abuse or unmet mental health needs takes a lot of patience, commitment, empathy, good humor, compassion, creativity and, last but not least, time. Is it any wonder that we as a nation dedicate an entire month to celebrate the role of mentoring and those who choose to mentor?
I started working with an 8-year-old Diego* and his family to address some of his more difficult behaviors, including his anger, defiance and aggression towards others. He frequently yelled at his parents and could become physical with the kids at school. When I started working with him in his home, one minute we would be playing basketball and laughing, and then the next minute Diego would be throwing gravel in his sibling’s face after she accidentally bumped into him. As a result, my time with him often felt like I was walking around a minefield.
Sponsor a Child is my most cherished fundraising campaign to be a part of here at Family Care Network. When I was interviewing for my position at FCNI, one of the first things that was mentioned was Sponsor a Child, our annual effort to work directly with our community to raise awareness and financial resources to ensure that the families and youth in our care have a joyful and bright holiday season. Having come from a family who had received similar services when I was younger, I instantly knew that I needed to work at Family Care Network.
Five years ago this month, my wife, Melissa, and I started to entertain an “out of the ordinary” idea. We were living in Tanzania while working at a nonprofit, but we were visiting the central coast as my wife was in the final trimester of her second pregnancy. Already with our two year old daughter, Promise, in tow, and a baby boy just weeks away, we started to consider how we might continue building our family through adoption, specifically by adopting an older child.
My sons are birth brothers, and they were placed in my home when they were 12 and 16. Unfortunately, their childhoods were splattered with trauma starting from the time they were born. Their birth parents met when they were both foster children themselves.
I was catching up with a friend one day, and as we talked he explained how things were pretty rough for him at the moment. At some point, he made the observation that he didn’t know how to approach some of his internal struggles because he didn’t know how to define what were mental health issues and what was related to mental illness. Basically, he was confused about how to talk about mental health because he didn’t know where mental illness fit in.
Working in FCNI’s administrative services, I don’t get to experience much direct interaction with our kids or families, at least not as much as I’d like. So I depend on our direct service staff to share their stories and experiences with me--their ups, downs, good days and even their hard days, and the countless examples they get to see of our staff’s and families’ resiliency and unwavering hope.