As we start to see more fall foliage these days, I can’t help but reflect on this period of transition we find ourselves in. While some of our young people are getting used to new schools or new homes, some of our colleagues have taken on new roles and opportunities. In my own life, my wife and I recently became foster parents to a wonderful 16-year-old teenage girl. This last month has been full of incredible growth and learning as we support our foster daughter. Whether it is independent learnings skills like budgeting and money management to building healthy coping skills, there is no shortage of support needed.
As a new foster parent, I’ve been able to appreciate even more the importance of mentorship for our youth. A mentor fills a unique role as a positive adult friend who can provide a healthy perspective outside of the home. It truly takes a village to help our youth thrive! I can honestly say that I wish my child could have a BEST Kids mentor! :)
Through becoming a foster dad I’ve learned I must draw deeper from the wells of compassion, patience, and empathy. Qualities that I recognize and admire in the inspiring individuals I interact with through BEST Kids. I’m always amazed by our dedicated mentors who demonstrate profound consistency through difficult times and shifting circumstances. Despite the changing of the seasons, the importance of mentorship for our youth is evergreen. Thank you to all our mentors, volunteers, donors, partners, staff, and board members for all that you have done, continue to do, and aspire to do in support of our youth!
Back to School
This past school year was unusual but after a long year of virtual learning our youth are finally heading back in person. As always, there are a lot of feelings heading into a new school year. Many of our youth are starting a new school, new grade, meeting new classmates and all of them are trying to get in the back-to-school mindset and cope with any anxieties or emotions. The pandemic put our youth and families through an extremely tough year but I’m hoping this new school year can be a fresh start for us all and allow us to revisit what is important for children and how we can best support their positive development.
May we continue to acknowledge their feelings, do regular chick ins and while the weather is still warm, provide that consistent in-person interaction. Let us all remember that success comes in many different forms and this year’s success may not come as easy as years past but let’s encourage our youth to find opportunities to do something positive whenever possible. COVID wasn’t the only thing that rocked our kids worlds but so did our many differences. During this year I’d like to help our youth understand the perspectives of other individuals and groups. This includes being respectful of race, religion, sexual orientation, age, feelings and ability levels – and how these differences can broaden ways of thinking and doing. There are so many lesson’s we’ve learned from this past year that I hope we are able to share with our youth to help guide them into their new normal.
I’m optimistic that our youth will end their school year much different from last years and that we’ll be celebrating everyone’s graduations, honor rolls and championship games together. This won’t be an easy road and very may well be a bumpy one but no matter where their paths takes them, our support is essential to their success inside and outside of the classroom.
August brings about the closeout of summer. August is typically reminiscent of final summer vacations, getting ready for the start of school, and preparing to welcome Fall. Summer of 2021 began with glimmers of hope. Life started to resemble "normal" again. Face masks came off and we got to see each other smile again. However, it is safe to say that this summer is ending in a much different way than it began. The headlines are filled with COVID cases rising and the Delta variant spreading throughout the country. Thoughts of fear and uncertainty are starting to cloud our minds once again triggering feelings reminiscent of those that occurred in mid March of 2020.
As a person who has struggled with their fair share of anxiety, I have to constantly assess my own feelings and sometimes ask myself, "how am I doing?" And yes, like many of you, I am struggling. The constant news reports that we are bombarded with multiple times a day do not paint a very positive picture right now. But in the same breath, I have to acknowledge a sense of peace and gratefulness I have for those relationships that are most important in my life right now. These serve as an anchor for me as the ground starts to shake once again and reminds me that, while things are scary, I am not alone.
This is one thing I have found so genuine about BEST Kids since I stepped into our office for the first time. Our youth have to endure the constant transitions of the child welfare system and face uncertainties that many adults will never know. We at BEST Kids, unfortunately, are unable and can't promise to make life less scary for our youth. However, what we can do is come alongside our young people with a loving and caring long-lasting relationship through that of a mentor - someone who shows commitment and consistency through whatever life has to offer and reassure our youth that they are not alone. Through disappointments, setbacks, uncertainty, and even pandemics, you are not alone.
I have had the privilege of seeing this in action for the past six years, especially since March of 2020. Mentors would show up to mentees' homes when phone numbers stopped working just to maintain connection. They came to our office to pick up care packages for their mentees and they kept their relationships moving forward even through virtual communication. Words cannot express the kind of selflessness and dedication our mentors bring to BEST Kids. We encourage anyone reading this newsletter to come join this amazing community of people as we continue to cultivate relationships and provide a peaceful presence to our young people.
"The Beauty In Me
When I think of the term “the beauty in me,” two words come to mind: self-esteem and identity. One of BEST Kids’ goals in working with our youth is to help them gain self-esteem by seeing concrete results of something they worked hard on. Self-esteem is the confidence we have in our own worth or abilities. It is garnered by intentional self-love and self-respect. How often do we, as people, challenge ourselves in this area? How often do we doubt ourselves and focus on our deficits rather than our strengths? Just think, if we, as adults struggle with this how much more of a challenge could this be for youth in foster care who are battling traumatic circumstances and constantly searching for their true identity?
This is one of the reasons the mentor-mentee relationships BEST Kids’ stewards are so key. We work extremely hard to ensure that our youth are connected to mentors who have a heart to see the best in them and to keep their best selves at the forefront. This is why we strongly encourage our mentors and mentees to come up with goals that actively work towards building up our youth’s innermost beings. This is why BEST Kids keeps the importance of fostering healthy relationships at our core. Our youth need this level of love and support in order to continue to build up their self-esteem and courage within themselves.
I personally take joy in knowing that we are not simply a program solely focused on building up the youth externally (academically, physically, or socially). But we care deeply about seeing our youth thrive as a result of being confident in the beauty they carry within and being assured of who they are. Our goal is to build upon their strengths and dismantle any thoughts that their deficits or lack in area is what defines them. We believe whole heartedly that there is beauty in each and every one of the youths we serve and we will continue to make sure they understand the importance of self-value, self-worth, self-love, and self-respect. If one can show these beautiful attributes to themselves, just think of how easy it will be for them to spread this positive energy to others, ultimately making the world and the communities they reside in a better place.
As we approach the middle of the year and reflect on a series of months (and the full year prior) that have been ever-changing, I am once again amazed by the resilience, creativity, and commitment of the BEST Kids team, youth, and mentors. Despite remote outings, events, and activities, our youth and mentors have been able to remain connected - and in more cases than not have thrived! But like many of us, our youth and mentors alike are eager to get offline and back to in-person connections.
With the increase in available COVID-19 vaccinations and changing regulations across the D.C. Metro Area, we hope to do just that! The BEST Kids team is looking forward to returning to safe in-person activities with our youth, mentors, and supporters in the coming months. As are our mentoring matches! In recent weeks, we've seen more and more matches returning to one-on-one in-person outings - from outdoor yoga classes to summer festivals and more. Some of these matches were made during the height of quarantine and have never interacted off the screen. As we all start to establish our new normal, I look forward to watching the progress of new and old matches as we navigate hybrid connections together!
Check out our COVID-19 Response Resources to learn more about how we plan to keep our mentors and mentees safe as we make the transition to in-person outings and events. Learn more about BEST Kids events at bestkids.org/events and stay up to date with our team and mentoring matches on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @BESTKidsDC.
About the Blog
Welcome to the BEST Kids blog page!