October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and on our blog we’ve shared different perspectives on this tremendously impacting issue, detailing how detrimental it is to our families, communities and culture as a whole. Every instance of domestic violence has multiple victims; multiple lives irrevocably changed. Below is such a life. Tanya Winje, an FCNI Program Supervisor, bravely shares her personal story of fear, hopelessness, survival and healing.
Category: Voice of an FCNI Staff
For those of you who are not in the behavioral health field, you may be surprised to learn that the term “Recovery” refers not just to addiction issues but also mental health issues. As someone who works in the field and also has a sister diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder, understanding the concepts of the Recovery Model has been an encouragement to me. I can distinctly remember getting a phone call while I was in one of my grad school classes telling me that my sister had been hospitalized due to her mental illness. This wasn’t the first time she was hospitalized, and the weight of my fear and grief hung off of me like an oversized coat. I can remember standing outside during my break from class, staring at the grass, and realizing that for all her gifts, talents, hopes and dreams, my sister would always struggle with a profound mental illness.
It is a late summer morning on a Saturday not too long after the Labor Day holiday has passed, as close to fall as you can get without it being fall. I am outside in a very public place and people are all around. My heart is racing, blood pressure higher than my doctor would like and my stress level higher than it has been in a long time. Directly in front of me is my six year old son and a number of his friends whom I am responsible for at this given moment in time. Things are going bad very quickly, and the words that come to my mind are “chaos” and “turmoil.” My son and his friends are completely oblivious to how devastating things around them really are. Now, I am pacing, yelling, and becoming more and more dysregulated emotionally. I have no real control over this current situation. I can’t force my son or his friends to move faster, become more aware of their surroundings or even listen to the directions I am giving them to prevent them from the loss they are about to experience. It is the first game of the Under Age Eight soccer season, a pretty big deal in my life as I am the Head Coach.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, originally attributed to the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, which states, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Walking a thousand miles sounds impossible to me. Would I get lost, walk in circles, be in a lot of pain? Attempting to push fears aside, I start to think of what a personal accomplishment it would be to walk so many miles. Then I think of how walking all of those steps might benefit me--physically, emotionally and spiritually. So I then brainstorm how I might accomplish this impossible task. Ten miles a day for 100 days or two miles a day for 500 days? I start to think of all the opportunities that might cross my path on this walk; all the people I might meet, the sights I could see and the things I would miss if just sped past in car. Pretty soon, a concept that started out as impossible, starts to look more and more plausible.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
What does it mean to be a positive supervisor and why do I enjoy it?
Caring for teenagers is oftentimes the ride of a lifetime! They are growing and developing into even more independent people, while at the same time still looking for guidance and direction. It can be challenging to know how to support your teen, in the midst of this often tumultuous stage of development. But while challenging, there is nothing quite like seeing them succeed at something they have worked really hard to earn. And recently, we got to celebrate some of our youth’s educational success. It’s been a humbling experience to see all of these youths’ hard work pay off. And we are so grateful for support they have all received along their way--the parents, foster parents, social workers, friends, family, teachers, counselors and other adults who have been championing them on and providing them the right amount of guidance, so they were able to reach their goals.
It’s summertime. And that’s means loading up on sunscreen and trying to find ways to entertain your family during long days without school. For some kids, summer also means an increase of screen time. But how safe are your kids when they have their own smart phone? How much information can they give away without even realizing it? And should you limit your household’s screen time? These are all good questions to ask, and we want to pass on a few pointers about internet and phone safety/health that we have learned to help you best protect your kids and their screen time desires.
Over the course of the past month, I have given extra thought to the concepts and reality of “foster care”, primarily because May is National Foster Care month. As I thought about “what” foster care really is and includes, I quickly became overwhelmed. Broken down into small parts such as foster children, foster parents, Foster Family Agency, social worker, therapist, Community Care Licensing, etc. and “foster care” can be understood and managed in my small mind. However, “foster care” in its entirety is a complex and complicated system. As I struggled with the question of “What is foster care, really?” my simple mind would soon turn to thoughts of Disneyland. Now, those of you who have been or are currently in foster care or may have a daily connection to “foster care”, are probably thinking: “This guy has lost all connection to reality,” because foster care and Disneyland may seem like complete opposites.
We work and serve in a very challenging field, and we can’t avoid acknowledging and responding to the vast injustices our foster children have experienced. However, it is far too easy to forget that these children are just children. They tell me, at the end of the day, they want and think about the same things the other kids in the neighborhood think about, the same things their peers worry about, the same things “normal” kids dream for. And while it is true that our foster kids do indeed have additional complicating factors and concerns–supervised visitation with a biological parent, separation from siblings, life away from the home they knew–they often want to be thought of for other things; things that might seem irrelevant and inconsequential to those working with these kids who know the gravity of their whole situation. To illustrate, these kids follow pop culture, they care about what’s “cool,” they have favorite foods, they laugh and joke with friends…and they also happen to be in foster care. The point, though, is they happen to also be in foster care; they aren’t just about foster care.
For several years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Caleb, a young man in a high school group which I helped lead. Over the years, I’ve seen him succeed in getting his high school diploma and begin to navigate the difficult transition to adulthood. At 18 years old, he moved out from his parents’ covering with no job and no clear direction of what to do next. The coming months in his life came with multiple challenges, including a job search that seemed to go nowhere.