Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Because We All Need Parents

Today I had the privilege to attend a conference about achieving permanency for older youth in care.  For my non-social worker friends that basically means finding parents or forever families for older youth in the foster care system before (or even after) they age out of the system at 18 or 21 (depending on where you live).  As a professional there were a lot of great takeaways on how to be more creative in this area of my job. But just as a fellow human being my biggest takeaway was that we all need parents. No matter how old we are. 

I'm 25 years old and I call my mom almost every morning. Sure I could say that I do this for her benefit. Citing that my siblings and I have all left home and my dad travels so I should check in on her.  I could say that it's my duty as her child to call and let her know I'm doing well and being a productive member of society (most days). In reality though, that phone call is for me.  That phone call is about me knowing that someone is there to answer it.  Someone wants to know how I'm doing.  Someone cares if I had a great day. Someone cares if my car got towed.  Someone cares if I I have a funny story to share. Someone cares if I slipped on my stairs in my night gown and flashed parking enforcement as I tried to beat them to my car on a rainy day. Someone Cares. And we all need to know that someone loves us and cares for us unconditionally. That doesn't stop with age.  There's no magic age we reach when we no longer need the love of another person.  There's no magic age when family and lifelong connections become unimportant.  So whether we're 5, 12, 18, 21 or 55 we all need someone to pick up that phone when we call.   

You can be that phone call.  The idea of fostering or adopting a teen seems daunting.  Teens and young adults, especially those in foster care, come with a lot of what we like to call "baggage".  But they also come with so much to give and share. So much that they're bursting at the seams to share it if anyone would ask for it.  Have you ever wanted to make a difference in someone's life? What about making a difference in one person's life that translates into changing multiple lives? Because if you change the life of a child you change the lives of their children and their grandchildren.  You can change the course of history for a family for generations to come by investing your time and love into one individual.  What a powerful way to impact the world.

A presenter at today's conference shared this well known quote:  

One hundred years from now,
It won't matter what car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much I had in my bank account,
Nor what my clothes looked like,
But, the world may be a little better
Because I was important in the life of a child.

In times of joy or crisis, who is the first person you call? Who is the second?  What if you kept calling but no one answered? What if there was no one to call? Consider being the person who cares. Consider being a permanent family member for a teen or older youth. Consider changing their world. Consider changing yours.