“Education exposes young people to a broader world, a world full of opportunity and hope.” -Christine Gregorie
Emergency Shelter Foster Care is just that--an emergency. The name implies that something has happened; something that is putting a child’s safety at risk and the only immediate solution is to move that child into a different home, away from whatever is causing them or triggering their trauma. As you might imagine, being placed in Emergency Shelter Foster Care is very difficult for a child or youth, and the likelihood that they will need a lot of extra hands and support is very high.
Every foster parent is different, obviously, and what brings them to this line of care is different too. But, surprisingly, a lot of our parents have one striking similarity. In every story we hear from a foster parent about why they do what they do, there is a similar vein of, “I just wanted to try it, to see if I liked it. And here I am, years later, still doing it; still loving it.” People who foster parent well, don’t really know why or how; they just know that their hearts get called to do it.
Have you ever found yourself with “what if”? We often use the saying “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack” when searching for Resource Parents (formerly called Foster Parents), and there is good reason for that. Many of you may think we’re on the hunt for loving, kind people who have a hefty dose of patience when we’re recruiting for Resource Parents. Great Resource Parents have virtues in spades, so please don’t get me wrong when I say this, BUT what foster youth really need are adults who can take ACTION.
Hazel* turned eight in foster care. Previously, she had been living with her mother who struggled to keep her safe and provide for her. Caught in a cycle of domestic abuse, Hazel had been exposed to many traumatic instances, all of which left an imprint on her emotionally and developmentally. Before care, she had a lot of difficult behaviors, including being combative with her peers and mistrusting the adults in her life.
One Friday in 1957, just before school was out for the year, my Mom scooped my sister and me up from school unexpectedly. Our Dodge Sierra station wagon--you know the kind with the small fins and turquoise panels--was packed full of stuff; lots of stuff. She said we were off on an adventure; wow, this sounded exciting!
Being located on the Central Coast of California certainly has some great perks. As we all know, we’ve got beautiful beaches, pretty perfect weather, and amazing wine and local cuisine, just to name a few. But by far, our area’s greatest perk is the strong community-spirit that pervades San Luis Obispo County. We here at FCNI see this spirit demonstrated time and time again.
The saying, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” while common isn’t often achievable for people who, alone, face impossible obstacles and hardships. Without family or friends’ support, how many of us could deal with losing our job and our home, especially with children to care for? How many of us could even house ourselves for very long without at least one person willing to extend a hand in help? This week on our blog, we have the privilege of sharing Alexandria’s story, another resilient spirit who has successfully graduated our Housing Support Program.
I believe that there is always hope even in times of despair. I have witnessed people experiencing darkness that seems inescapable, and I have seen these persons find hope in the hope of others. Individually, each of us has experienced disappointment, loss, grief and pain. How did we transcend these dark moments? Hope and help imparted through others. Certainly faith is a major ingredient to overcoming adversity, but it is through caring relationships with others that faith is truly manifested.
No one’s path in life is straight, without mountains to climb and valleys to cross. For foster youth, their mountains often appear much too early in life--oftentimes at birth. And without a community to look out for them, to help them weather and cross the difficult terrain that surfaces through not fault of their own, they can be left to wander, uncared for, for life. Too often, these individuals become victims of their circumstances, suffering cyclical consequences of a lifepath they never got to choose.