Meet Crystal, one our our incredible youth partners. In her life, Crystal has experienced neglect, and physical and emotional abuse. Through hard work, time, and working with various service providers Crystal has developed an understanding of how to form and maintain boundaries, how to develop and engage in self-care strategies, and how to manage her trauma. Today, Crystal uses her experiences to support families, children, and youth as a Youth Partner within our Family Services Program. Read her full story and how our Full-Service Partnership (FSP) program has impacted her life today!
I wanted to write about how significant the relationship between a social worker and foster parent is. I started three other attempts to do so. I tried to make one light hearted and humorous in which I compared myself to a LEGO. Another draft, leaned more on drama. In that one, I actually described the relationship like, “A relationship forged in the fire of the foster care system.” Overly dramatic much? On my fourth attempt, I finally realized why I was having such a hard time describing it.
Ted found himself at rock bottom--again. As an unrecovered alcoholic, Ted was again living out the devastating consequences of instability and poor choices. He had lost his job, his girlfriend had moved out with their two children, and he was evicted from his apartment. The final blow came when Ted was arrested for his second DUI and ended up sentenced to six months in jail. With nowhere to go but up, Ted committed himself to his sobriety while serving his time. But when he was released, Ted realized that while sober, he had nothing to return to--no family, no home, and no purpose.
I once worked with a youth who had been in the same foster home for about two years. By the time I joined the youth’s team, he was tired of being in his foster home and wanted to be reunited with his family. For those of us who got the honor of meeting this young man, we got to experience his joy and humor--he was a very happy young person to interact with. When I met him he’d already waited a long time and had done a lot of work to reunify with his family.
In a phone conversation with my sister this past week, she shared a heartwarming story that I really needed to hear considering all that is going on in our world right now. My sister is the head “lunch lady” at an elementary school, and for the past week she has been handing out bagged meals to students in the parking lot of her school. She shared that several of the children who came to pick up lunch one day this past week expressed excitement that they had been provided with cantaloupe in their lunch sack.
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.
I get irritated when I hear the word "broken" used to describe kids and families who are struggling. Although I hear it less often than I once did--hopefully this indicates that people are becoming more informed--I still hear it used to describe individuals in our world who have behavioral challenges, difficulty coping, poor family dynamics, troubles in their relationships with others, and/or are just suffering with their overall life functions.
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.
Without a doubt, one of my favorite authors is J.R.R. Tolkien and I love this quote from The Lord of the Rings, “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands hope is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater!” What an apt description for these times in which we live – “the world is indeed full of peril.” Seriously, when you think matters cannot get worse – they do.
As is often the case, when something new comes along, something else typically gets displaced or overshadowed. The positive transition to emphasizing trauma-informed care and trauma-informed practices with children in foster care has had the unfortunate result of reducing the conversation on resiliency. While trauma-informed care has been a valuable shift in this field, it cannot and was not meant to standalone.