There is such joy, excitement, and freedom that comes with moving into your first apartment. It can also be frightening navigating new environments and experiences. These highs and lows are emphasized when working with the “Foster Youth to Independence” Voucher. The Foster Youth to Independence Voucher, or FYI voucher, is a new statewide program that provides housing choice vouchers to former foster youth who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or so the song goes, right? According to the song, kids should be “jingle belling” and our collective hearts should be glowing. I’m “all in” for living in that world. However, reality is often far from this lovely image of this hypothetical holiday-world. The bigger reality is that the holidays can be a very difficult time. Our kids and families are no exception and, in fact, their traumatic experiences and situations can make it the most difficult time, far from wonderful.
The holiday season can truly be a magical time for us all. It is wonderful to spend time with family, have big holiday dinners and, of course, give and receive presents. It is a time to celebrate and Give Joy. But for some, the holidays can be absolutely dreadful. Holidays are expensive and, as a struggling parent, fear can take over, knowing that you won’t be able to provide for your child. A distressing reminder that due to current circumstances you cannot make ends meet let alone make the holidays special.
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.
This year, Family Care Network launched our Give Joy fundraising campaign to raise funds to provide the children, youth and families in our care with everything they need to have a positive holiday experience. As our team was planning this campaign, setting goals, and reaching out to our community for support, I couldn’t help but reflect on the true meaning and impact of joy itself. After a very hard year, especially for the children and families we serve, there is such a need for joy and light-heartedness.
The first morning I stayed with the people who became my Legal Guardians, I rolled out of bed to find the father figure in the kitchen gracefully sprinkling garlic salt on a mound of potatoes and eggs, serendating them with his own rendition of “I Feel Pretty.” He looked like a cross between a retired football player and Hagrid from Harry Potter, but sang like a gigantic angel. ([To this day,] I’ve secretly thought of him as my Fairy Godfather). He has always called me, “Pumpkin” and used phrases like, “diglty dangit” when frustrated.
While growing up, I think I had an above-average level of exposure to the foster care system. I had close family members and multiple friends who fostered and/or adopted kids. Also, two of my best friends in high school had been in foster care.
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.
Hi, I’m Sandra, a new Youth Partner at Family Care Network. I’m a good fit for the job, because I have been in the foster care system since I was thirteen, and I’ve utilized many of the programs that Family Care Network provides! I have been in Emergency Shelter Care, multiple foster homes, received Wraparound services when I was living with my mom, and also participated in the Transitional Housing Placement Program prior to and after turning eighteen. I also utilized the Independent Living Program throughout many of those years.
Previously on our blog, we introduced you to Destiny and shared her personal journey from foster youth to FCNI Youth Partner. We’ve been so thankful for Destiny and her inspirational spirit--she truly transformed her life and circumstances into teaching opportunities to support our Transitional-Age youth in amazing ways. We’re now sharing the next leg of Destiny’s journey, as she continues to follow her dreams and inspire us all.