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.
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.
Each year, the Family Care Network has the honor of partnering with local organizations and businesses to make a difference in the lives of the children, youth and families we serve. Recently, we had the pleasure of partnering with Old Navy to create a unique opportunity for our young adults who are eager to learn about employment and working.
I hope that I’m not the only one who finds it very disturbing that the wellbeing of children and youth in this country is ascribed such a low priority. Among all nations of the world, the USA ranks number two for the highest child abuse rate per capita, far worse than countries like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh. Of the 35 developed countries, the United States ranks 34th in its child poverty rate. Add to these rankings that we also have one of the highest infant mortality rates and very low academic achievement, and our country isn’t painted in a very pretty picture.
Given the immense wealth and resources we have in this country, there is no excuse for our kids to suffer and fall short the way that they do. Unfortunately, our many shortcomings can be easily explained – our Policymakers and power brokers simply don’t give a ##@&!