Recently I spent some time back home in my hometown in Hawaii and I decided to go for a walk past my elementary school. As I strolled past the front gate, I was flooded with memories, reminded of relationships with teachers and peers, and reflective of how my time there nurtured who I have become today over 30 years later. For whatever reason the metaphor of “roots” struck me as I continued the rest of my walk that day.
We know that plants thrive the most when planted in fertile soil, given consistent amounts of light and water based on their individual needs, and allowed the freedom to establish vast and strong roots. The same is true for us as people. The strength of the roots we grow through our past experiences helps us to weather storms and shifting environmental changes, and the resources and people around us provide us with the nurturing we need to grow and adapt in order to live healthy and successful lives.
This got me to thinking about the foster care experience that affects over 700 youth right here in DC community each year and hundreds of thousands more throughout our country. How has their ability to thrive been impacted by being uprooted time and time again, being replanted into environments that don’t necessarily provide them with the nurturing that suits them best? How can we expect them to live healthy and successful lives if we aren’t investing in building stronger and more life-sustaining roots they can depend on throughout their lives?
Here at BEST Kids, we recognize that we can’t undo all the harm endured by youth in care, but we can provide youth with nurturing that helps them to grow as best they can regardless of the environments they are planted into. We strive to provide youth with positive memories, relationships, and experiences that help to strengthen their roots to survive through difficult times they are currently facing and that are in store ahead. We also are committed to addressing inequities in our community that perpetuate these harms leading into and during time spent in foster care.
May is National Foster Care Month and my challenge to you is to think about how you can help to build stronger roots for youth in our program and youth in foster care nationwide. You can consider becoming a mentor, a CASA, a foster parent or making a donation to support our work and the work for so many others that specifically serve this population. You can advocate on local, state, and federal levels for equitable housing, health, employment, and education services that reduce the need for foster care on the front end, as well as for legislation that supports higher levels of care and support for youth and families during and after involvement with foster care. We all can do something, whether big or small, to help youth and families in our communities to thrive together and there is no better time to start than now.
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