January is National Mentor Month, and we want to honor the many individuals who volunteer their time and energy to support our kids. Our mentors are some of the most amazing people. And the relationships they build with our kids are often times life-changing for both mentors and mentees.
We’d like to introduce you to Colleen and Angelo, an FCNI mentor and mentee, who want to share a sneak peek into their special relationship.
Colleen: I was a tiny bit worried when my mentee’s case was first described to me. Without disclosing too much, I’ll say that I imagined a child who would be a bit out of control, and possibly focused on past wounds. And he may be just that at times, when he is with other children or in groups. But he is not the child who was described to me at all. A large part of that is, I know, because of the care he is receiving from his foster family as well as the FCNI team. That can’t be overstated. But I truly believe that all children – but especially children who have been traumatized in any way – need the singular focus and attention of an adult on a regular basis. He proves that to me every time we’re together.
At our first meeting, he stood close and looked right into my eyes and asked me if I was a social worker. Even having been in the foster care system for only two months, he clearly had an idea of what one might look like, and apparently I fit the picture. Kelly (FCNI’s mentor coordinator) stepped in helpfully and said, “She’s like your buddy.” He cried out, “Yay, my buddy!” And we’ve truly been buddies ever since.
My mentee is a very affectionate child. Before leaving his foster home, he tells everyone in the family that he loves them, even raising his arms high one afternoon and calling out, “I love you everyone!” It’s not surprising, as it’s a wonderful home full of fun, and animals to play with and care for, and lots of affection. I’ve heard his foster mom talking to him about following the Golden Rule. With me, he is free with hugs and takes my hand often when we’re walking. Sometimes he breaks my heart when he asks if he has been a good boy that day. The absolute truth is that he is always a good boy.
We’ve been to the Mid-State Fair, where we ate corn dogs (forgive me) and rode the water ride. And he loves the Children’s Museum in SLO. We went bowling at the Pismo Bowl and then played on the beach, and every time we can fit it in, we go to Jan’s Books in Arroyo Grande where he gets a book and plays with the resident cat. He was so excited when I took him to the Arroyo Grande library for the first time that he spun in a circle, arms wide, and said, “Look at all these BOOKS!” In December, we went to Toys-R-Us to buy toys for some YMCA preschoolers, and he was the best little elf ever. And we always go to breakfast or lunch together and just talk about whatever he wants to talk about.
The thought that our time together may end after a year if he is reunified with his family, does make me a little sad. I will miss him as I would a beloved nephew. Nevertheless, I hold nothing but hope that it would be for the best should reunification happen. And that sadness doesn’t cause me to regret taking on the mentor role. Kids are such little sponges that they soak up everything--the good and the bad. Every moment spent pouring on the good is worth it. And the love and the fun that we’ve shared will be with me always.
Angelo (10): Colleen is really, really, really nice. She takes me really, really fun places like the zoo, and she is really responsible. My favorite thing we did together was when we went to a museum that is only for ten year olds [the SLO Children’s Museum], and after that we got my favorite ice cream, cookie dough. My favorite thing at the museum was the sand, because it was weird and new feeling. Colleen got me a present, and it was some purple and tan sand, and I got to take it home. She got it from the museum. Another time, we went to Doc Burnstein’s for ice cream, and that was really fun. Colleen is someone I talk to a lot. We hang out a lot on Saturdays. Colleen is really awesome, and she takes me to all of these places I’ve never been before so I can have new experiences. Colleen is someone that is in my life just for me, and it is special.
Angelo’s foster mother: Colleen, Angelo’s mentor for the past nine months, has been amazing. She is phenomenal, a real team player. Colleen is very respectful of Angelo and our family. If we have obligations and appointments, she always works around them and is very flexible. Colleen is like part of the family. When Angelo comes home from visits with her, he is super happy, when she arrives, he is always excited. Angelo always looks forward to his times with Colleen, which makes my heart warm.
What better time than Mentor Month to join our phenomenal crew of FCNI Mentors? For more information on our Mentor Program, please call Kelly at (805) 781-3535 or visit our website at FCNI.org.