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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Building a Circle of Restorative Relationships

This diagram was created by foster care alumna Lisa Dickson. It has been used in training youth, foster parents and child welfare professionals.

If anyone reading this blog were to suddenly move to a new state, they would need to develop a new circle of relationships for themselves.

Foster care youth frequently move from one place to another... Regardless of their ultimate placement, it is vital for them to develop the skills to surround themselves with trustworthy, helpful people.

Child welfare policies need to support -- rather than hindering -- this process.

Amanda's mission statement

Foster care alumni Amanda Dunlap serves as Youth Outreach Coordinator of the Ohio statewide chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.

This year, Amanda helped to present a series of workshops at the statewide foster care conference, which took place in Columbus Ohio, June 14-16.

Amanda also co-presented a workshop on PTSD and emotional trauma at the fifth annual Casey Foundation It’s My Life conference, which was held in Atlanta, GA from Sept, 30 – Oct. 2, 2007.

On a personal note, Amanda was recently contacted by her biological father, and informed that heart problems are a part of her family history.

Amanda's goals are:

To be healthy, now and later on in life.
To find a supportive circle of relationships and maintain them.
To love myself and others as they should be loved.
To do well in college and become the best social worker I can be.
To support Foster Care Alumni of America in all that I do.
To reach out to young people in the foster care system and make a difference in their lives.

Bill's Personal Mission Statement

Billy and I knew each other first at a children's home, where we both lived for several years.

Later, we met up again after graduate school and attended a group home reunion event together.

The crickets were chirping, but that was it. There was no one else there from our generation.
It was a lonely reunion, and left us feeling disconnected and rootless.

However, our interpersonal connection was powerful because we both knew what it was like to be in and age out of foster care.

We had both developed and were in the process of implementing the goals we wanted to achieve in our lives.

Here is his plan:

To learn how to love and be loved. To invest time and energy into long-lasting relationships. To diminish my competitive nature of scarcity and think in terms of abundance. To enjoy the company of others and to grow from their experiences.

To live within my means, not losing sight of other areas in my life. To live my life in balance: health, happiness, relationships, mind. To live a life of integrity, humility, honesty and justice. To focus on long-term satisfaction instead of instant gratification.

To always learn more about my life, my friends and my world. To never tire of learning something about everything. To learn how to improve all areas of my life. To assist and teach others of my discoveries. To live a life that inspires and motivates those I touch.

To hold true to my idealistic view and make it reality. To teach my future children the principles of happiness. To leave this world knowing that I have made something better

Lisa's Personal Mission Statement

Lisa Dickson: After I aged out of foster care, I entered college at age 16 years old.

Only one other person that I knew from foster care went to college. When he and I met up again in graduate school, we discovered that we had more than our past history in common.

He and I had both created mission statements for our lives. No one told us to, we just found ourselves mapping out a plan for our lives.

Although we were not in touch with one another at the time that we wrote them, our mission statements had much in common...

Lisa's Personal Mission Statement:

To be always learning, always absorbing, always discerning,
Always reaching out to people, always growing.

To know more and to experience God, others and the truth.
To love, and to be loved.
To give, and to be given.
To teach, and to be taught.
To abandon security for salvation.

To open my arms and widen my heart.
To enlarge the scope of my perceptions.

To love God, and to rest in him.
To be his.
That’s my goal.

The Power of Shared Experiences

What do foster care alumni over the age of 23 have to offer young people who are in, or who have recently emancipated from the foster care system?

Consider this analogy: A man is walking down the street and he falls into a deep hole.

A priest walks by and he yells up for help. The priest offers to say a prayer for the guy in the hole and walks away. An executive walks by and throws a dollar down the hole. A doctor walks by and drops a prescription in the hold.

Finally, a friend walks by and jumps into the hole with his friend.

The first man, in shock, asks, "What did you do that for, Are you nuts?!?! Now we're both stuck down here!"

The friend replies "Yes, but I've been down here before and I know the way out."

Walking a Tightrope Without A Net

Every year, 20,000 of the 542,000 children in foster care nationwide "age out" of foster care and enter the adult world.

Most young adults in the general population rely upon their families for assistance with a place to live, financial support and other guidance as they transition to adulthood.

Half of young adults ages 18-24 in the general population in the United States live at home with their parents, according Children's Rights.

Yet young people aging out of the foster care are expected to transition successfully to the adult world.