I’ve had a few different jobs over the years, but none more important or as rewarding as raising my children. Once I became a parent, and my children went through the different stages of childhood, my empathy for kids in general grew immensely. God gives us just a glimpse into his fierce love for us when we become parents. I am very thankful for the family I grew up in, and for the privilege of being a mom. I’ve also become increasingly aware that too many children have a very different story than mine. Our world is broken, and for a myriad of reasons, many children face struggles and challenges that arise from circumstances they didn’t create.
As my two children have entered adulthood, and one is now married, I have a little more time in my days. I have been thinking and praying about how and where to serve others. Last year, I heard a sermon from a guest speaker, Phillip Pattinson, co-founder of Foster the Bay, at my church. He challenged us in the audience to participate in the “mission of helping foster kids”, wherever we lived. That resonated with me and I immediately thought of Family Care Network.
I have known about Family Care Network through a few different connections over the years. I know some current and previous employees and board members, and all are amazing, giving people. I have participated in Miracle Miles for Kids for a few years now, and so I know the general mission of FCNI. I know local families who have welcomed foster kids, and many went on to adopt them, often working closely with FCNI. Over the past three decades of living here in SLO, it has become apparent to me that FCNI is effectively and compassionately serving kids and families. My heart hurts for kids who don’t have the security that comes from a stable family. I know my own kids have been fortunate, by the grace of God, and I am grateful for that.
I pondered how I could help, and at first, I thought that I wouldn’t be a good fit. Though I loved parenting, I don’t have any experience in social work, psychology or teaching. I guess that all comes into play as a parent! But my formal education and work experience were in engineering. Specifically industrial engineering (I worked in a manufacturing plant) plus I have my MBA. I like details and planning, and organizing. I decided to check FCNI’s website anyway to see if there were any volunteer opportunities that might match my skills. I found one for an administrative volunteer in the Education Support Services department! That seemed like perhaps it could be the right fit, so I inquired. The more I learned, the more it appeared I could help make a difference.
Although I am still very new as a volunteer, so far I have had a couple of tasks. The one I have spent the most time on is cross checking the client details in the internal database with the latest information from external sources, as well as adding the latest information from the case managers working directly with the clients. I have been updating addresses, phone numbers, caregiver information, and program classifications, as well as adding names and contact information for important ‘Circle of Support’ people in their lives. I have had to learn a lot of terms and acronyms, as well as get educated on just how many programs and resources FCNI offers through its Educational Support Services. Marie Bolin, FCNI's Education Services Manager, has very patiently taught me and answered a ton of my questions! A second task that I was just beginning (before the Shelter at Home order began) is the transition to a standardized filing system for every client in the program. My hope is that through these tasks and others like them, I enable the case managers and others that work directly in support of the clients to have easier and more accurate access to the latest information. Inaccurate or missing information can cause delays and even gaps in communication and the delivery of important services.
I know my volunteer duties are several steps back from the “front line” work that many of the FCNI employees do on a daily basis. But I also know that every organization has internal systems, records, and files that they rely upon to be effective in what they do. So I know that I am helping kids and families in our community by helping FCNI run more efficiently and effectively. Turns out that the need for an administrative volunteer has been there for quite a while. I just came knocking due to God’s prompting at this crossroads in my life. I am happy to play a tiny role in serving the precious kids and families of our community. And a great bonus is all of the relationships I’m forming with the FCNI staff I get to work alongside!