It is evident that we are living in a world that is ever changing. Our immediate response and attention is required in order for us to manage the change that so easily besets us. This week, BEST Kids staff participated in a team building exercise to discuss how we manage change during transition. Two of the quotes that were a part of our discussion were as follows:
“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Hereclitus (Greek Philosopher)
“Organizations don’t change, people do.” – Unknown
Think about that for a moment. Change is something that will happen. We can’t avoid it, and we certainly shouldn’t ignore it. With all that is going in our nation and globe to include the COVID pandemic, the revolutionary protests in support of Black lives, and the magnified attention on racial injustice in our country, we, the staff and leadership at BEST Kids, are taking the time and opportunity to be very reflective and introspective. We are taking an inward look at the way we do business, and to reassess the strategies and policies we have in place that directly impact and influence the lives of the youth that we serve.
We began to ask ourselves these questions:
Again, the quote says “organizations don’t change, people do.” Well, the people of BEST Kids extends beyond our staff and leadership. The people also include YOU, our supporters and stakeholders. How you show up during these times matters too. I’d like to challenge us all to be very reflective and introspective during these times; to ask ourselves the questions above; and to determine how we might actively be a part of the process of change in a way that continues to empower the youth that we serve and care about, and to help build each other up during these times.
I’ll end with this. Being a part of change does not always mean easy. It is often not void of pain. It requires strength, tenacity, and courage and most often comes with sacrifice. The upside is that we don’t have to go it alone. We are in this TOGETHER! As I encouraged our staff in our discussion earlier this week, I’ll do the same here - We should not just go through change, but we should GROW through it. I hope that you all will join us in this challenge. And my hope and my prayer for each of you is that you will be all the better because of your decision to be the change you want to see.
Expanding Youth Voice with the Youth Advisory Counci
“Youth Voice is nothing without adult action,” stated Dorian Thomas as he spoke on behalf of the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) at a town hall meeting. The significance of that quote aligns with the mission of BEST Kids Mentoring program which is to empower youth in foster care to build better futures, one child at a time.
At BEST Kids we seek to help our youth raise their voices as a way to support creative expression and identity formation. We want to continue to expand the voices of the youth by providing them the platform to speak about the complexities of being a child in foster care. Among the many youth voice efforts the YAC is all about teaching young people about the ways media shapes perceptions of themselves and the world around them, and equipping them with the tools to tell their own stories.
Prioritizing our youth perspectives helps them to make decisions that affect their learning and lives, and creating the YAC has put them in positions of genuine leadership and authority. When running a program designed to enhance the lives of the youth, who better to critique it than the youth themselves.
BEST Kids envisioned creating a culture of youth voice where young people’s ideas are both taken seriously and implemented with the support of caring adults. It takes adults willing to share power and expand possibilities and it takes young people willing to take initiative and lead. We hope the Youth Advisory Council can serve as an example of what it takes to make a culture of youth voice a reality.
The COVID-19 (corona) pandemic has created a truly unprecedented situation that affects us all. Our hearts go out to anyone who’s been impacted by the virus, either directly or indirectly. This time has been like no other in that we are forced to live, work, practice self-care, and connect from the same spaces and with the same fervor we would as if we're out in the world. Of all the scenarios we’re taught to prepare for: loss of income, fires, car accidents, floods, health risks, etc., a pandemic is last on that list if mentioned at all.
Despite the limitations, forcibly disconnecting from the physical world around us, quarantine has made space for us to reconnect with ourselves and rediscover our passions, desires, boundaries and the good they do for us. Setting our daily intentions is important now more than ever. Create a schedule outside of working business hours and use the time you would have been commuting to reengage with yourself and practice mindfulness. Consider the following practices: journaling, exercise, revisiting an old business or 5-year plan, goal setting, planning calls with loved ones, or one of my favorite self-care activities, mandala paintings. These activities also apply to time spent with your mentee. By reconnecting with ourselves, we inherently enrich the lives of our youth that much more.
So far this year has been a year like no other. From a landscape of political conflict to social challenges and re-education, from our daily routines and navigating personal goals, to legends passing away, and even worldwide pandemics, this year has shaken us all in some way. Can you just imagine how all of that has affected the young people we care about? Our youth have witnessed our subtle or extreme reactions to this year. They see the news headlines too. The youth absorb what they witness, and ultimately if we seem confused or hurt, they feel it too, but there is one thing we can do to model the right behavior during times like this ...stand united.
If not already, in times like these our mentees must become our extended family. Give your mentee a call, and talk to them. Perhaps play a game online together, spend time telling jokes and riddles, or send them an interesting or informative article via text or email. Let’s be vigilant in building the community we dream of despite our current challenges. Let’s remind our mentees that they are not in this moment alone and that it's okay to feel anxious. This can be a time to rest our minds, talk more, read more, love more, and rebuild a community that is united. Let this bring us closer together.
Thank you for supporting BEST Kids, by supporting the youth at BEST Kids. Thank you for caring, and actually acting on that feeling. Stay safe, and no matter what let’s stay unified.
Over 4 years ago I started working at BEST Kids and since then a lot of people have asked me what it is like to work with kids in foster care. Although I can’t share names I’ll tell them how proud I am of my “clients”, rattling off their accomplishments and highlighting some of the struggles they have overcome. Over the years I noticed that people have rarely asked how good their grades are or if they are headed to college. Instead they ask how they are doing or holding up or if they are being supported well enough. I don’t believe that they don’t think youth in foster care are more than capable of doing well in school or going to college but that when a family is split up the first thing a young person needs is stability. It made me realize that success isn’t always measured in the ability to move forward; sometimes it’s measured in the ability to stand still.
One of the most important things for kids is routine. All of the expectations for the next day, still being in the same house, still going to the same school, still seeing the same friends, all help them feel less anxious about the unknown and stepping out of their comfort zone. With youth in foster care the expectation is switched, their house, their school and by extension, their friends could all change with very little notice and every day is no guarantee that they will stay the same. That’s why I find the work at BEST Kids so important.
With everyone and everything coming in and out of our youth’s lives, we all work to ensure they get a mentor that will follow them from house to house, school to school, through foster care and even afterwards. One person they can count on to be there when they say they are going to be there. While all mentors want their kids to do well in school and go to college they recognize their need for a sense of stillness, peace and routine. They spend time with their mentees helping them step outside of their comfort zones amidst all their own unknowns to discover that there can be bigger and better things for them out there. Even when everything is unknown we work every day to make sure that our youth know a BEST Kids mentor is one thing they can expect to stay the same.
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