Need Help Navigating Foster Care? Look to Former Foster Youth

Many years ago I was tasked with picking up a nationally known speaker at the airport in an unfamiliar city and shuttling them to a conference. This was before smart phones and GPS.   The window between their landing time and their scheduled speaking time was somewhat tight so I wanted to be well-prepared. I had gone online and printed out the directions from the airport to the conference. I was ready.

However, when they got in the car at the airport I noticed this person did not have on their normal speaking attire.   They asked, “Could we swing by the hotel so I can change before we head to the conference?”

I’m sure on the outside I delivered a cool and calm, “No problem.”

But on the inside I was panicking — not so much because I feared we would be late but because I HAVE NO SENSE OF DIRECTION.  Anyone who knows me well can confirm this.  I did not think to print out the map from the airport to the hotel and then another map from the hotel to the conference. I had printed one set of directions and now they were worthless to me.

I managed to get us to generally the right zip code and at one particular intersection I began to feel I was recognizing things and started to feel better. My passenger gently told me he thought the hotel might possibly be the other direction from where I was about to turn (I think he had stayed there once before), but I was pretty confident at this point. I said, “I think I recognize this and am pretty sure it is this way.”

Umm . . . it wasn’t.

Did I mention that I have no sense of direction?

After some U-turns and a couple pieces of humble pie, I did manage to get my gracious passenger to his hotel and to the conference in time, but I may have shaved at least 6 months off of my life expectancy.

When I received my first GPS device from family as a birthday gift one year, it was truly a life-changing day for me. When it came to driving, I felt like the scales had fallen from my eyes and I could now know where I was going. Ok . . . let me rephrase that. I still didn’t know where I was going, BUT I did now know whether to turn right or left at the next intersection. To this day when someone asks me where something is, I tell them that it is wherever Siri tells me it is.

You see, the GPS is the one thing that is intimately acquainted with nearly every square mile of the country. It knows the lay of the land and I would be foolish to try driving without its counsel.

In the same way, we as foster care advocates and foster parents spend each day navigating a system that can be complex and confusing. There are many intersections where it is difficult to know exactly which direction to turn.  If we are not careful we can choose to go this-a-way when we should have gone that-a-way. So when it comes to navigating where we should and shouldn’t be going, what – or rather who – should we be looking to for counsel?

I believe at least one really important answer to that question is former foster youth. They have experienced the true impact of the system in ways we could never fully understand without them. Listening to their stories and their insights could bring us a lot of clarity.

We are launching two new initiatives this spring that I think will provide a tremendous sense of direction for foster care advocates in the faith community:

First, we are launching a brand new podcast in the next month that will feature the stories of former foster youth. We will discuss how these voices can make us better foster care providers and foster care advocates.   I spent the beginning of this week interviewing several of these foster care alumni and I could not be more excited for you to hear from them.

Second, we are launching a brand new pre-summit foster care intensive in Nashville called The Foster Voice on May 3rd.   The CAFO2017 Summit is May 4-5. However, the day before Summit kicks off, we will spend the morning hearing from and interacting with foster care alumni. We will explore how their experiences can help us do a better job of facilitating foster care movement in the communities where we live. To learn more about this amazing event, CLICK HERE.

Navigating foster care can be daunting. But we have the opportunity get guidance from those who know the lay of the land best. And while you may justifiably never want to travel with me in a car after reading this post, I do hope that when it comes to these two new great opportunities to hear from our former foster youth, you will come along for the ride.

 

This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to provide more than enough for kids and families in foster care.  To sign up, go to http://bit.ly/1rwn6eO.