I foster every day...I encourage and promote growth and healing in the lives of my bio children and in the youth who I mentor. If I were just to tell you that I foster, you probably and most likely, would think that I am talking about “foster care.”
January is National Mentor Month, and during the month we like to honor all of the different individuals who volunteer their time and energy to support our community’s youth and families. At FCNI, we have multiple volunteer roles, including mentor, tutor, career mentor and admin volunteer; and all of these roles directly help us achieve our mission, “to enhance the wellbeing of children, youth and families in partnership with our community.” Matt Hanley, a local attorney, is currently a Mentor with us.
With January being National Mentor Month, Family Care Network wants to honor the many different individuals in our community who volunteer their time and energy to support our kids. We have several different types of volunteering opportunities available but one we are highlighting today has a career focus. FCNI’s Career Mentors engage in one time meetings with our local youth who are interested in learning more about a specific career path.
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.
“We all need someone who inspires us to do better than we know how.”
Why am I so passionate about mentoring?
Being a mentor to anyone is not easy but being a mentor to a child or youth who’ve experienced trauma and/or instability, can be especially difficult. Fulfilling this important role for a child or youth who is healing from various hurts such as neglect, abuse or unmet mental health needs takes a lot of patience, commitment, empathy, good humor, compassion, creativity and, last but not least, time. Is it any wonder that we as a nation dedicate an entire month to celebrate the role of mentoring and those who choose to mentor?
I’m Nat, a Rehabilitation Specialist working with youth at Family Care Network. I’ve been a mentor for about six months now, and I’d like to share about my experience because I think that mentoring foster youth makes a big difference in their lives and in our community. I met my mentee working as a Rehabilitation Specialist in our Emergency Shelter Care Program. She was in a shelter foster home for about six months, and during those months I picked her up from school almost every day, and spent the rest of the day with her.
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.
Volunteerism should be a big deal in our country. It is universally valued--nobody in their right mind would say disparaging words about volunteers or volunteering. Not everyone can be a philanthropic giver, but most everyone can be a volunteer. You don’t have to have wealth or material resource; you just need to have time, heart and a sense of adventure. Volunteering is not age constrained and can be enjoyed by both the young and old. Volunteering is not only good for society--organizations like the Family Care Network depend on it--but it’s good for you, the Volunteer.
Mentor relationship aren’t just made, they’re cultivated through shared experiences, earned trust and genuine care. We always appreciate the compassion and patience our Mentors show towards their developing mentor relationships, as it makes all the difference in showing our kids that each one of them is important and unique.