November 14, 2011

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Mentor Someone Aging Out of the Foster System

Thousands of foster children age out of the system every year, meaning they've become a legal adult, have not been officially adopted, and are no longer provided government care or aid. Some of these children may become homeless or don't know what to do next. Become a mentor or just befriend those who have aged out. Let them know that they're not alone.

I Love This Kid

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself- Oprah Winfrey
So many children have lost hope is themselves and the society that surrounds them. They have been battered and bruised in life and cannot tap into their heart- they simply carry sadness wherever they go.

My dear friend whom we will call Jane, is one of those kids. She lost her mom in a tragic accident. Her dad was never involved in her life. From the age of fourteen she and her three sisters (all teenagers) were left in a world that they were unprepared for. They were separated amongst various relatives but struggled to find their footing. It was in the midst of this difficult time that Jane and I began our relationship. She needed an adult in her life. I needed to give back.

For many years, Jane and I did the normal mother/daughter things. We shopped together, went Chicago on day trips and talk about everything. She was my friend but she knew that I was an adult- so though we did have a friendship, I was also a parental figure. She lacked so much in the way of confidence and hope. The normalcy of teen issues were present but were magnified by the lack of a father, loss of her mother and the immaturity that goes with those life altering experiences. I can remember her with tears streaming down her face saying, "I just want to feel something."

That was my goal for her as well. I just wanted her to work through what life had dealt her. I wanted to see a smile on her face that touched her lips but went straight to her heart. In the course of that relationship, I never saw that smile. She switched homes repeatedly, eventually found her biological father and moved down south to stay with him. I lost contact with her at that point. She had just graduated high school, did not show interest in college and couldn't get out of this area fast enough. For several years after that, I did not see her. She often came to my mind but I had no way of regaining contact. I heard from her again when she was pregnant. She was living back in the area. I went to the hospital when she gave birth. She looked good. The baby was healthy. I gave her my number but didn't hear from her for a number of years. Imagine my surprise, last week, when I looked up from my grocery cart and into the face of that 'child' I love so much. Two babies in tow, she walked toward me. I smiled. "I love this kid," I thought to myself.

Jane had married the father of her two children. He was not ready for marriage and had left them all for another woman. Jane was left with the children. She was working hard to makes ends meet. She was thinking about going to school. She was struggling. Yet, I saw something in her face that I had never seen. She had mission outside of the pain in her heart. She had focus. Her life was not what I had envisioned for her- no white picket fences. Yet, her children were beautiful and well cared for. She handled them and all that goes along with two children under the age of 2 with grace and efficiency. She found her role as mother and provider exhilarating. For the first time, I felt good about Jane's life. I knew by looking in her eyes that her children gave her hope. I would have loved for things to have turned out a little different for Jane. I would have loved for some normalcy and familial ties to have entered her life. I would have loved for her children to grow up with their father but life isn't all about what we want, it's about dealing with what we get.

In regard, Jane did learn a little from the hours we spent together. She will always be one of my girls.

Do you have a mentoring story? I (and all the readers) would love to hear about your experiences. Mentoring a child or teen is an excellent way to be involved in a child's life with. There are many times and circumstances that leave children/teens vulnerable and without hope. These children are not available for adoption but could really use an adult in their life to help them navigate. If you are considering mentoring a child or teen contact a local agency (like Big Brothers, Big Sisters.) They should be able to point you in the correct direction.

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