For any child to have a lack of stability and basic needs is heartbreaking. I think about Eric, who in his short time on earth, has lived in 50 different foster homes.
“It was hard knowing I had to go home at night and that this might not be the last place I’m going to be at,” he said. “I might be at a different place tomorrow and just being scared.”
You think of the resiliency that might very well develop with the upheaval, the uncertainty, the lack of self confidence, and the lack of a foundation. How do you optimize your learning, your character development, and your ability to build and develop friends if you’re constantly being uprooted?
How do you add all that up for a child, whether he or she is 2, 10 or 20?
We know that these cycles can be generational, so that’s why a program like our 24/7 Life Coaching is so critical in breaking that cycle, so Eric has the potential to find a network and find stability through his mentor.
I think of James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”
Talk about relentless service. These youth support specialists and life coaches, by the very essence of their job, go above and beyond. They are committing to be accessible, any time of day or night.
Jenny Miller, our youth support program director, is someone I’m over the top impressed with...and humbled by. She’s got a huge heart for our mission and the community. She’s tireless and relentless in pursuing the basic services for the folks that her team is serving. She is just entirely convicted by trying to break these cycles, whether it be training those life coaches, reaching out in an authentic way, persuading leadership within the Y to make sure this program remains a priority, and finding funding to continue and expand the work because we’re not meeting the demand.
This program is the essence of the YMCA’s mission: One-to-one service to people who have all the potential in the world, but maybe no one has given them the opportunity to realize it.
Think of how much some of us take for granted, how we can look past things that may seem simple and easy to access. But without a role model, accessing any service – like even getting an ID – can be daunting.
These kids are otherwise forgotten and passed by. It’s indiscriminate: Different ages, races, genders and faiths. So invariably, when they try to be successful in their own right, it’s not likely to go well.
Trust plays into this in a huge way.
With 24/7 Life Coaching, maybe it’s the first time in this person’s life that they’ve been able to depend on an adult.
Think about the confidence for someone who felt helpless but maybe now believes that a career that was once only a dream can become a reality. Maybe they will be the first in their family to go to college then set an example for their children, or nieces or nephews, and what are the odds that they become the trusted adult for others who are trying to find their way?
Day to day, it can be frustrating for our coaches and specialists. But this work will have a longitudinal impact.
How many jobs empower you to do that in such a personal and intimate way?
I’m proud that this program has grown. Since 2007, we’ve added partners and channels. But each year, there are about 2,000 Minnesota youth that “age out” of the foster care system and nearly 40 percent of these young people do not have a plan to get health insurance, a job, housing or even a driver’s license. We have much work to do to ensure all can thrive.
For Y Give Week, consider donating to the 24/7 Life Coaching program, so we can provide these life-changing resources to more young people in need.
Thank you for your support.