Life’s biggest opportunities aren’t always obvious.
I started mentoring two foster siblings about two years ago. I was actually searching for mentors for these two brothers and wasn’t able to find anyone, so figured I might as well give it a shot.
I had no idea what to expect, but I figured the role of a mentor was to engage, educate and inspire. I wanted to expose them to new opportunities and just be present for them. I started taking them to Everglades, museums, restaurants, movies, Wynwood, basketball games, etc. once or twice a month.
It’s been a journey for all three of us, trying to figure it all out. Navigating the unknown territory of becoming a person who these kids can learn to trust has been challenging at times. For kids growing up in foster care, learning to trust adults enough to let their guard down can be truly difficult. Instead of having an agenda, I had to learn to meet them where they’re at. There’s always a fight to remain non-judgmental, to listen, to say yes more often than no, to attempt to instill patience (for me too!) and persistence, to counter the need for instant gratification, and make them aware of the skills needed for eventual independent living. I had to help the brothers to move beyond their fears by being consistently there, showing unconditional love and acceptance as I could.
Foster children are hungry for the caring adult that spends quality time with them and shows them love. We can be used as an instrument to mend the broken heart. Think about it. The adults that gave them life (their biological parents) didn’t show them the love they deserved. They let them down and turned away so of course it would be difficult for them to learn how to build healthy relationships. I couldn’t ask for perfection but was so excited to see progress.
Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to see the generosity, day after day, of those who care for kids who are not biologically their own – often traumatized, difficult to handle, non-trusting, and marginalized in society. I’ve learned the resiliency, humor and magic smiles – the common sense often displayed by foster kids. I’ve had to master the art of advocating on behalf of their needs because, like all children, they do deserve the best.
Constantly I’m blown away by the dedication of the judicial, educational and foster care system administrators, case workers, guardians, tutors, therapists, etc. who are often overwhelmed with caseloads, inadequate financial support, turnover, unexpected crises, and many more challenges.
Throughout my mentorship, I’ve observed and pondered the pros & cons of social media & devices, the life-long need for physical exercise, the benefits of sharing, the need to have at least a minimal awareness of local, national & global happenings.
I am a believer that mentoring does have positive effects on foster youth and on the community as a whole. It enhances academic success, improves workforce readiness, reduces juvenile crime, increases self-esteem and reveals new opportunities and career paths for youth. There have been numerous studies done that uphold these claims and portray mentoring as a worthwhile support system for kids.
Mentoring is one of the easiest things to do, yet it yields the most important rewards. As one who went in blind and fell in love with these kids and the role I’m able to play in their lives, I wanted to share my experience in hopes that maybe you too can find joy and purpose in mentoring a foster child.
Next time you consider what you can do for your community, think about the foster kids in need of love and support. Join us and be a part of the journey as we continue Building Genesis.
This month’s blog contribution was written by: Mike Samway http://www.ghhaven.org/