Like any other school girl waiting for a hero, I was a brown-eyed girl with pigtails who had my first crush at 7 years old. My first love was a social worker, my knight in shining armor (I am still on the look for that man in metal but that is another tale altogether). This generous man was kind and helping me navigate scary territory; confusing supervised visits with my mother, adjusting to a new home with so many new “brothers” and “sisters” coming and going, physical and emotional challenges, not knowing if I would stay in my new home or go to a group home. He was genuinely pious and I remember scribbling heart-filled picture after picture, so he could adorn his desk with my affections.
I was grateful later for positive friendships I developed with social workers. Of the hundreds of thousands of foster children neglected, abused, or taken from their birth families for whatever reason; there are also hundreds of thousands of mentors, social workers, teachers, writers, counselors stepping up to the plate to make a difference.
These workers are there every step of the way to help foster children grow up to be successful members of society: proud of who they are, what they have been through, and knowing they are worth the moon. These programs address challenges as foster children move through the system into adulthood.
Foster children are children who are taken from their birth parents and put in temporary homes for many reasons. In all cases, the child has been physically or sexually abused, or severely neglected. Many times a parent’s mental health or drug/alcohol addiction has impacted the care of the child. Sometimes this is temporary and a rehabilitated parent is reunited with the child. Other times, foster children move from home to home until they “age” out of the system and are no longer financially supported by the state or county. Shifting emotional, physical and academic transitions make schooling even more challenging to these misplaced children.
Fortunately, there are heroes changing the tides. Many programs are actively fighting to bring foster children out of the system by guiding them through higher education programs, professional training, certification assistance, scholarships, mentoring and support.
From high fashion celebrity studded gala fundraisers to a back to school backpack program for enrolled college students, New Yorkers for Children is on the A list of child charities. Founded by former foster child and former New York Administrator for Children Services, Nicholas Scoppetta, NYFC is a true success. Its school package program offers everything from a laptop to basic college needs; Its network to success programs offer business and major networking opportunities, and other mentoring, academic and planning programs are just the tip of the iceberg. Almost anything is possible through NYFC.
Another program aimed at propelling former foster youth is Foster Care to Success. The program began in 1981 by former foster children who either lived in foster homes or orphanages and is aimed at turning scared teens go on to become professionals. It is not an easy feat. But the program offers ETV grants in several states, scholarships, mentoring, a fellows program in DC, where college students learn professional skills, networking programs, awareness and so much more. It is a well-recognized group of warriors for children recently out of care.
Both founded by former foster children,these programs continually step up to the plate and take a stand for these sometimes forgotten children.
Next week I will talk about The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption which is one of the most well-known charities fighting to move children from foster care to full adoption. The transition enables them to become a permanent part of a healthy family, rather than being displaced or at the mercy of the court. It is one of the most respected programs available in the US, then I will tackle legislative issues.
Foster Care to Success
New Yorkers for Children
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