May is National Foster Care Month, a time to raise awareness of the immediate needs of youth living in care and to celebrate the people and organizations supporting them. Most of you know that I was an adoption social worker for five years at a private, domestic agency that placed newborns. Additionally we had a contract with the Dept of Children and Families so some of my work included doing assessments on waiting children and perspective families. I am very passionate about adoption and think it is such a special and amazing to build or expand a family. Since right now I am not in a position to adopt of foster a child I mentor. I've been a mentor for four years now to the same young lady and it has been an awesome experience.
There are many organizations where you can volunteer to be a mentor but I chose an organization in Boston called Adoption and Fostercare Mentoring or AFC Mentoring. I chose this organization because all of the children in the program are currently or have been in DCF custody which means they likely have lived in a foster home (or many) or have been adopted. These kids NEED mentors. They need positive role models. They need friends. Did you know that often these kids have only ever interacted with adults who are being paid to be with them (think about it - their social worker, their teacher, their therapist, their foster parent(s) and the list could go on and on). But a mentor is a VOLUNTEER. They do it b/c they want to. I decided to be a mentor b/c I had some free time on my hands (haha I hardly ever have free time) and I wanted to give back. I knew I had the skills to be a mentor (I have a Master's in Social Work that has to make me qualified right?) and I knew how to be fun and friendly so why not!
I love being a mentor. My mentee and I have been through a lot together. I won't go into specifics due to her privacy but let's just say it hasn't always been easy - but what is? We have learned a lot about each other and she has taught me many things. I hope I have taught her things too. I have seen her confidence grow by leaps and bounds and I have seen her try new things that she never would have tried a few years ago. She is brave and strong and funny and kind. She is my friend and I'm so happy we were brought together through mentoring. I hope that someday she will look back at these years and know that I was here for her b/c I wanted to be. I hope the consistency I have provided has taught her about healthy friendships and long term relationships. I hope that my friendship has helped the bad days be even a little bit better.
So maybe you aren't in a position to adopt a child or even foster a child but there are other ways to be involved. You too can be a mentor. You can make a difference in a child's life who needs a caring and consistent adult. So what do you say? Will you make a difference? I promise you won't regret it and it will change your life!
Big Brother Big Sister
ADOPTION AND FOSTERCARE RESOURCES:
Adopt Us Kids