thais Oliveira, on being in a love box:
Why do you volunteer?
"The experience is so gratifying. It sounds kind of self-centered, but takes a lot of anxiety out of what you see on social media and in the news. It's a way that I can make this world better - at least one life a little better. And we're helping our foster families impact so many more lives. It's gratifying, anxiety-reducing, it's hard - super painful and sad to watch sometimes, but I think my heart actually got bigger. We accept those families and children in foster for who they are, without judgment. It's been so nice to make my family bigger by volunteering."
What keeps you consistent?
"The kiddos, and the foster parents - they're superheroes! It's such a tremendous show of love to take in a kid in need or kids with trauma. And once you start that, you can't go back."
What made you to choose to involve your family in volunteering?
"I thought my son would really get along with the child I support. And he does - they have a great relationship. My son lives in a privileged bubble - I wanted him to know that things happen in the world, and not everyone is like that. And he was surprised that kids might not live with their parents. He's getting a view of the real world - as hurtful as it is. But he also got a friend. They play chess."
"It's such a simple thing in life to do - and you *CAN* do it. Just showing up makes such a difference."
What else do you take away from the experience?
"It has given me a lot of perspective, and has taught me so much about how to be a better parent. How to show up, and learn more about how trauma affects the brain and body. I sympathize with and better understand children who are having development and behavioral issues.
I involved my child because I come from a super poor country and now I live in this beautiful bubble. And it's important for me that he sees otherness here. You don't have to travel to Brazil (where she grew up) to see struggle and poverty."
What do you want people in our community to know about kids in care?
"I want people in our community to know that kids in care are awesome - and they need love and attention.
When I started volunteering, I was shocked to learn that it's an issue here - that our little community has so many kids in need - of just a bed if they're suddenly displaced."
"And even with all the trauma they go through, they have a lack of connectedness that is so easy to fill. There are kids in our community that need you - even if it's just a couple hours a week. Anyone can volunteer and step in to give kids in care a sense of belonging and normalcy. You can do such little things - like making sure they have food when they're hungry, or knowing they can count on someone - and what that does for their brain, allows them to let their guard down some, and just be a kid."
Anita and Andy have been foster parents for over 22 years Their experiences and insights are invaluable to Olympic Angels and anyone wanting to learn more about or positively impact the lives of children and youth in foster care on the Olympic Peninsula.
Their family's Love Box has seven volunteers that make weekly meals, help move furniture when kids move in, throw several birthday celebrations every year, and the cakes - oh, the CAKES!
There are also two Dare to Dream volunteers that offer regular direct support and guidance to two of the teens in their home.
Here is what they had to say...
What do you wish people knew about foster care?
Andy: That there’s a need. There’s not enough foster parents and there’s a ton of kids. And local kids can’t stay local if there’s not a local family. Which means the kids are going into foster care in the next home that’s open.
We have a situation* where a kid is in Hoquiam, and sister is here. They facilitate a visit every weekend, which means a transportation person and supervisor drives to pick up brother, then comes here (to Port Townsend), picks up sister and then drives both kids on to Sequim for a visit and goes back to Hoquiam (3+ hours one way) - every weekend. And sister has to wait a whole week before she gets to see her little brother, and she absolutely loves to be with her brother.
Anita: We have started to facilitate overnight sibling visits (at Anita & Andy's house) which is something we really pushed for.
*Identifying information has been changed but distances are real.
Anita: I want people to know it is such an incredible gift to whoever does foster care. Because what you learn from the children that are in your care is something that you can’t really put words to. It just is one of those things that when you bring a stranger into your home, you realize that the stranger that’s coming to your home - you’re just as much of a stranger to them. And then learning about one another and that availability to open your heart and soul and mind to the different ways kids are raised, what the believe in, what they’re used to - I think it’s such a gift. The amount of love in the new relationships that we have gained through our 22 years of foster care is amazing.
Tell me what life looked like before you had a Love Box vs life after a Love Box in your life.
Anita: Before we had our Love Box, Andy and I were slimming down - we were not going to do foster care anymore. We were going to retire our license because it just got too busy - too much. We were both working and the transportation to here to there, the court reports - everything - all the little things we had to do for court and the social workers…was too much. Integrating the children into their family and back into reunification - it was just getting too busy. But when Love Box was introduced to us there were all these things that gifted us time.
Andy: It was…like the allies coming up over the hill 😅 - just when you think you’re not going to make it anymore. They were a group of absolutely wonderful people with the same goal in mind - and they seem to be able to read us like a book. Just when you’re about to ask for something, they mention it - it’s magical, and it’s a huge relief. It’s such a relief and reassurance and support and it feels like our second wind. We have a different fervor about what we’re doing and we see the kids pick up and bounce - and they’re more excited about things. They excited to see their mentors and to watching someone have a birthday and they can’t wait for their birthday celebration come around. It’s everything - it’s a complete difference. For people that are thinking about foster care - it’s a whole new ballgame if the Angels are involved with your family. For families that have their own (biological) kids too - its the same thing. There’s not a kid that’s left unassisted or unaided - it’s absolutely wonderful.
If you do ever decide to stop fostering, what do you think will need to happen to support kids in our area?
Anita: Our kids don’t go away - this is still their home. And we have a good 16-18 kids that come home every holiday.
How many kids have come through your home?
Anita: It is very close to 100 - this last year, we’ve probably hit 100 kids who have come and gone, and come back again.
Why do you think it’s been so many?
Anita: I think it’s definitely drugs and alcohol, and unfortunately the lack of mental health support in our community and in our society. In order for some people to get help, they have to go to jail or lose their kids before they get the help that they need. And that puts so much more on the system.
Andy: I think it’s how you were raised - because there’s no handbook on how to be a good parent. So all you have when you’re ready to suddenly there’s a child in your life, and all you know is how you were raised - and now you’re going to do the same thing all over again. Some people did not have good childhoods - and it certainly doesn’t help them on how to be happy and raise a happy, healthy child. It’s hard for people to pick it up and figure it out. That’s a big part of it - not knowing how to be a good parent. And once you’re involved with Protective Services - it’s “these are the things you have to do to show you can be a good parent so you can have your child back.”
Anita: Our society has built such a circle of “it’s all about me” but I think that putting a child before your own needs sometimes gets forgotten - especially when drugs and alcohol are affecting your life.
We’ve had kids who have come into our lives early in our (fostering) career, and those kids have had kid that have gotten taken from them. The first thing out of their mouths is “can you place them with Andy and Anita?” And that feels like one of those heartfelt feelings that we did something right somewhere - we planted something somewhere.
The system is just so overwrought - there’s just not enough people out there to support it.
What do you think it will actually take to make a change for kids in the foster care community?
Anita: I think that it’s awareness and putting it out there that kids are so vulnerable. I know there’s a lot of people out there that talk about collecting coats or shoes for foster kids, but that’s not enough. There needs to be that awareness out there that kids need more.
Andy: And maybe the awareness part is that there needs to be more support in going out into the community - to say “there’s a desperate need for foster families!” If there were more support to the families that are struggling, there would be fewer children in foster care.
Andy: We’ve always thought about not only the kids that come into care with us, but their parents too. Everybody can make a mistake and we think about their plight and what got them into this situation and hoping that they’re getting the support they need so they can get their child back at home and carry on with their life. We’ve actually been kind of successful at supporting parents getting their kids back. And that’s been rewarding because we’re often thought of on the other side of things from the parents.
Anita: We continue to grow family members - they’re everywhere. We have grown such an amazing family through foster care.
Andy: We’ve been able to be an unconventional foster home. You can be a foster family and go by the book and make sure that every penny you ever spend is reimbursed by the state - but we’ve been 180 (degrees different) of that where we take care of kids and their situation. And if its assisting parents, that’s okay too.
Anita: Help rehabilitate those family ties - because they’re the most important things in the world.
The reason for being foster parents was not to make a family - the reason we became foster parents was to grow a child.
Anita: The kids always come first - no matter what. What is best for the kids comes first. We have a bowl of mixed nuts, but it’s been a magical journey - it really has!
Our dream when we do retire is to have the biggest foster family reunion. They walk back into our lives again like nothing has ever changed. It’s nice to be able to hold that pillar for them so that they know that there’s always an opportunity to find us and know where a foundation is. Somewhere they can trust.
Our first Dare to Dream mentee we met at the age of 20. He had been in the foster care system since he was in elementary school and was soon to age out of care at age 21.
In 2018, we awkwardly asked him if we could meet him for pizza downtown regularly to hear how things were going. As he approached the cliff of aging out, these pizza meetups took on a new urgency. They soon became about housing and advocacy appointments. Like so many kids before him, he became homeless immediately upon aging out of the foster care system.
Aging out of foster care without a healthy support system or transitional housing set-up had created a predictable crisis.
LOVING him the way we would our own kin transformed this relationship from "client" to someone we had the honor of mentoring through this tough season. We had the privilege of walking beside him as he navigated the terrain between an isolated childhood in care and independence in a community.
This year, we have achieved what we set out to do. He has finally been approved for the disability he should have been awarded long ago when he was still in foster care. Through much advocacy, he has secured a place in his community to live. He has a group of dedicated folks who aren't paid to show up. We have increased his natural supports 10 fold.
The Dare to Dream Program has given us a framework to rally support around him and safely see this through as people that love him.
One part cheerleader, one part advocate, one part friend, ALL IN.
...they make BIG things happen!
Remember that stretch of hot weather we had in June? Well, the week before the heat dome descended, Love Box members Jason & Shelli of Morningstar Services rallied 6 volunteers to spend 4 days fixing a roof for a deserving foster family in Port Angeles.
This foster family has cared for 70 children!
70 CHILDREN - teenagers, mostly.
Through deeper questions, it came up that a storm several weeks prior had badly damaged the roof. Buckets were catching water while they saved for repairs and waited for drier weather to tackle the project.
Volunteers Shelli & Jason, their teenage son, the foster family and friends joined together to see this project through, even when it got much more involved than expected. And did we mention the HEAT?
Thomas Building Center donated materials, MorningStar Services donated professional services and expertise, and volunteers donated an extraordinary amount of time. Love Box Volunteers and their friend & family felt empowered to make a difference and took the radical initiative to strengthen the roof above another family's head. This is what community-supported foster care looks like!
An interview with LOve Box volunteer, Shelli:
1. How did the roofing project happen? How did you discover this need, and how did you figure out how to pull it all off?!
Our Love Box group had been through a placement change, so we “followed” our boys to a new foster family. This family has been faithfully doing foster care work for years but had never heard of Olympic Angels. Our Love Box Leader reached out to them to see how we could support them and one thing they mentioned was that their roof was leaking into the bedrooms and desperately needed to be replaced.
This was brought up at our next meeting, where two of our gentlemen members knew all about roofing! These two awesome guys (Cliff and Jason, my husband) talked it out, while another member (Quinn) offered to get the supplies at discounted rates. The only real difficulty was timing; you need a good week of dry weather, so the project had to be in the planning stage until summer came. Other generous people in the group gave financially so the final roof was definitely a team effort. Lastly, we had friends and family who wanted to assist, which was a huge help.
2. How has being a part of a Love Box changed your life?
Jason and I (Shelli) have done foster care in the past and for various reasons have chosen not to be licensed anymore. However, we both have a huge desire to help these kids and give them what love we can. (We’re Christians, so we just want to be like Jesus!)
Being in the Love Box has been such a blessing because we’ve been able to give and help without feeling overwhelmed. Most people can’t do foster care…it’s just too huge a commitment. But being in a Love Box is a fantastic way to collaborate with others to make a positive impact.
3. What sort of difference do you think it made for the family? Imagining having a load like that literally lifted off their shoulders, really enabling them to focus on parenting their kids even more - is just amazing!
The parents of the family were so grateful. Because they both worked and fostered numerous teens with hectic schedules, I’m sure they were thankful for just someone to take care of this for them. From our experience with foster parenting, we knew that often projects like these were difficult financially and moreover, just time-consuming and mental-energy sapping. I hope that we lightened their burden so they had one less thing to worry about!
4. What is your relationship like with the other Love Box members?
They are simply wonderful! We truly enjoy the meetings held at Quinn’s DW (the name of her house!). I think we all share the same goal: to love these kids and give them all we can. It’s a very caring, fun-loving group. Most of us share the same faith, too.
5. What is your relationship like with the kids you support?
The kids we did support have been re-unified with a parent and have moved out of the area. That is bittersweet, for sure. Most of the team members had spent time with them and taken them on outings, had them over, or had filled their love boxes with special things (that was our sweet Patty). I personally met with them to tutor them, and we had such fun! These kids are still on our hearts, and we’re thinking of ways to stay in touch with them.
But for now, we’re all looking forward to a new family to help!
An interview with beau ohlgren
Beau has our hearts.
He's a Love Box leader. A Love Box recipient. He is a donor. He's a single foster parent with a youth in his home that is also in the Dare to Dream Program. He also is an educator locally and at the national level of Angels. Beau is all about showing kids that they are held in community and seen for who they are.
As WA State moves to targeted recruitment of foster parents, we wanted to better understand what kids that identify as LGBTQ+ need to thrive. Beau sat down with us this month to talk about all things LGBTQ+ and foster care.
Thank you, Beau!
Can a LGBTQ+ person/family foster?
LGBTQ+ folks can absolutely foster! Before I went through my own foster licensing I was worried that being trans would prevent me from getting licensed, but my queer identity was never a concern. In fact, Washington State has strict standards for folks who are getting licensed - all foster parents must be open to LGBTQ+ youth in their care, and folks can’t get licensed if they can’t promise that they would support every child. From my own perspective, because LGBTQ+ youth are over-represented in the population of kids in foster care, it is quite possibly advantageous to have more queer foster parents!
What are the benefits of matching a youth that identifies as LGBTQ+ with an ally or LGBTQ+ family or mentor?
LGBTQ+ youth experience high rates of bullying and rejection by peers and adults, and the stress of harassment and discrimination can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and attempts. They thrive when they are supported, treated with compassion and understanding, and can see their futures in the adults around them. Feeling isolated and alone is a common challenge for LGBTQ+ youth, along with lacking healthy adult role models who share their identities or with whom they can share their experiences. If a youth in foster care is matched with someone who at least has some understanding and will dive into talking about gender and sexuality with them, it is truly life changing. If they share a queer identity, it gives that youth a vision of what adulthood could look like, when before they may have never had the opportunity to picture their lives.
Tell us about the training you did for National, and what was hoped to achieve through it?
I led a conversation around gender and sexuality, the statistics and composition of children and youth in foster care who carry LGBTQ+ identities, and best practices for supporting queer youth with National Angels chapters around the country. One of my greatest passions in life is ensuring that we meet youth where they are at and support them through their identity development, and I know that gender and sexuality is one of those areas that hasn’t been taught well or thoroughly so many folks come into these conversations without the tools they need. It’s very important that we learn the language so that we can be the best mentors and advocates that we can possibly be. My hope is that each Angels chapter is able to take learnings from this session back to their communities so they can learn their local resources and expand their volunteer trainings to fit their communities.
How do LGBTQ+ statistics relate to foster care?
LGBTQ+ youth are over-represented in the foster community- meaning that in the general youth population you expect 11% to identify as LGBTQ+ but that number is 30% for youth in foster care. Additionally, one study in New York found that 78 percent of LGBTQ youth were removed or ran away from foster homes because of the hostilities they faced, and 56 percent chose to live on the street–rather than in a foster care placement–because they felt safer there. It is vital in the foster care community to understand our over-representations - on race, on ability, on sexuality and gender, etc - and to equip ourselves with the tools necessary to meet each child and youth with competence and compassion.
What do you want people to know about specific to LGBTQ+ & foster care?
Learning the language around gender, sexuality, and pronouns might feel a bit overwhelming. It is a fair bit to learn, and can take some re-training of our brain to stop making assumptions on a variety of levels and- it. is. worth. it. The relationships and trust you will build by approaching this with humility and curiosity will pay you back 100x.
Beau Ohlgren is an educator, facilitator, and community organizer and has been leading workshops, facilitating groups, and running trainings on gender, sexuality, and working with transgender folks since 2011. He’s worked with all ages (preschool to older adults), and with groups ranging from therapists to church-workers, university staff to doctors.
Beau is the Director of Family Ministry at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Port Townsend, WA, is a licensed foster parent, and runs the Jefferson Country Transgender Support group. He’s passionate about supporting children and youth in our community, and particularly expanding knowledge and compassion for the queer community.
When Love Box volunteer, Caley, was matched with brothers Josh & Jacob,* she committed to journey alongside them, no matter where the foster system took them.
Going into this role, here is what Caley didn't know:
Foster care is often full of unknowns and things beyond our control. What Caley could control, was her ability to be steadfast, patient, and honor everyone with her words and actions. As the boys packed their things, yet again, Caley wrote a letter for the DCYF social worker to give to the new foster parents. And then she held her breath...
To Josh & Jacob's new Foster Family,
Thank you for keeping these amazing brothers together and welcoming them into your home right before their birthdays and Christmas. I recognize the holiday season is hectic as it is, and your love and care for these boys are not going unnoticed.
To introduce myself, my name is Caley, and I was fortunate enough to meet Josh & Jacob through Olympic Angels (a local organization supporting foster children and their foster families). I have undergone a background check and trauma-informed relationship training in order to best support the foster care community. I have gotten to know these boys over the past few months and love them dearly. I would love the opportunity to get to know your family and support you in whatever ways I can. I am here to help make your lives easier and help make this transition for your family and the boys as smooth as possible!
I spent Sunday afternoon with the boys and they shared their birthday wishes and presents that they want. (Their birthdays are both coming up in about a week!). I have a couple of gifts that I’d like to give the boys around their birthdays. If you have a different birthday plan in mind, I’d be happy to offer my help!
Here are some ways that I am able to offer support through Olympic Angels: provide birthday/Christmas gifts, babysit, take the boys to the park, drop off family dinners, provide gift cards when new clothes or school supplies are needed, and tutor the boys.
I am here to support your entire family unit. I am so grateful to you for your heart and your willingness to keep Josh & Jacob together, loved, and cared for.
Please reach out to me at anytime and let me know how I can best support your foster family and the boys moving forward.
I'm so happy to tell you that the foster family welcomed Caley and the Love Box. The foster mother included Caley fully on the team for the boys and kept her connected, despite the obstacles.
This month Caley moved these boys home with some of their biological family for the first time in a long time. As life would have it, they are going to live on the other side of the water, close to where Caley has found a new job and home for Scruff & herself. She already has the bunk beds waiting.
Caley is a Love Box leader. Behind her is the Love Box team. Behind each of her actions, each of her offerings of meals, gifts, and time, is a robust Love Box of 8 additional committed folks. She truly could not have done this without Quinn & her mom Christy, couples Leigh & Cliff, Shelli & Jason, Patty & dear Melissa. Caley begins her update emails with, "Hey Love Box Family!" This group was pieced together because of their common heart to serve children in the foster care system well. Most didn't know each other prior to saying "yes" to this adventure together. But they have cooked, babysat, tutored, driven to family visitations, celebrated and grieved together. This is what community does for its children.
Interview with Caley, World Changer & Love Box Leader
What do you wish people knew about foster care?
How big the need is for them to be involved in some way. There is room for everyone to be a part of the village of support, to support the kids, the foster parents, and the biological families.
What have you been able to do for the boys in your Love Box family?
I am able to be a consistent adult that loves them and is there for them regardless of where they go. I think for them, as they’ve moved through three different homes, they always knew I was there and I was always going to be there. It gives them a person to trust who wants to be there, who isn’t paid to be there. I’m not a service. I’m an adult who loves them.
How were you received by others?
I think this is an important part of the story to share. Once their social worker at DCYF was able to understand that our purpose was to love these boys and stay present in their lives, it lightened the load for everyone.
We were able to help with their visitation with their parent by transporting the boys to Seattle for visits every weekend.
Their parent was able to see them in their own home. They didn’t have to come to a hotel to see them which was better for everyone. For the boys, this was a real visit with family. It was fun. We got snacks, ice cream, listened to music on the way. We had fun with it.
I want to be a foster parent one day. This has helped me see that I had a little more heart change and growth to do before I can fully foster successfully. By successfully, I mean I have the goal of keeping siblings together until permanency (reunification with family or adoption) is reached. I wouldn't want to have children moved from my home or separated because I wasn't ready to do the work on my end. This experience is helping to get me ready.
What have you personally gotten out of the experience of volunteering as a Love Box Leader?
I have grown so much in my understanding, empathy, and love towards all the parties involved. Everyone has a different story of how they got to where they are, and we all want the best for the boys.
The perspectives are very different (various foster parents and biological family, social workers, and Love Box members), and I don't agree with some of them, but everyone is coming from a good place. I have learned that there are so many different ways to show love.
*names changed to protect privacy
Volunteers Calah & Andrew introduced themselves to their Love Box family with a letter. It was during the pandemic, after all, and the Love Box had been matched and trained virtually. Andrew and Calah gave this couple what we share with you now: a cheat sheet to some Olympic Peninsula Family Adventures. This wisdom was hard won and collected among their friends, each sharing with the other what they had learned about how to have a good time, for a little bit of money while raising little people in a very wet and often chilly corner of the world.
The foster family that Calah & Andrew were matched with were very new. New to fostering. New to Port Townsend. New to parenting in general. Soon after being licensed, they were matched in the Love Box program, just as they brought two children into their home.
Here's the letter Andrew & Calah crafted. We hope you find some inspiration for your adventures with the families you serve, your grandchildren, and any young people in your life!
Let us introduce ourselves, we are Calah and Andrew, members of your Love Box team. We moved to PT when our son was 3 and our daughter was a baby. Our son is now 16 and our daughter 13. Our families of origin are in New England, so we had to figure things out and build our own support network in Port Townsend. We have put together a guide of places, activities, and other things that we have learned along the way. Hopefully a few of these things will be helpful for you.
Prepared for Adventure
One of the things we learned from a local nanny was to carry an adventure “Go Bag”. She always had a backpack with everything needed for adventure in Port Townsend. We tried to replicate it with our own. Here are a few things that we carried in it:
Structured Activities and Support
"As I got older, I realized things I cared about from a social justice viewpoint were all related to foster care. When I learned about the Angels model it made me realize 'This is it!'"
Stephanie began as one of Olympic Angels' first volunteers. Once she was on a Love Box team and saw the impact that it made for the children and the entire family, it hit her how powerful Angels can be. "I always thought someday Angels would hire more case managers and when it happens I would love to do that part time while continuing my business. I just didn’t know it would happen so soon!" We are beyond grateful to be able to bring Stephanie onto our growing team, and be better able to serve the children on the Peninsula.
In a conversation with Stephanie, we were able to get an inside look as to what her goals are in this new role.
What are your top 4 skills and how do you think they will translate to this new role?
Connecting. I love connecting people. Matching mentors and volunteers with kids and families will be so rewarding.
Teaching. I am very at home when I am teaching so I would love to teach volunteers and community members about the program and trauma-informed practices.
Organization. I love organizing tasks like bookkeeping. There are a lot of moving parts in this program to keep organized so I am excited to dive in.
Vulnerability. I'm comfortable talking about sensitive topics openly and encouraging vulnerability.
If you could snap your fingers, what problem in the world would you solve and why?
Inequality. If we had an equitable playing field many of the other problems in the world would start to resolve themselves.
What criteria do you use for evaluating success?
My personal success is based on my quality of life & joy. Evaluating Olympic Angels' success would be based on reaching every kid in the local foster community and doing better every year.
Elsa: OUr Interview with a Dare to Dream Mentor
“I just get to be a consistent person who cares what happens to them.”
Elsa has been matched with her Dare to Dream teen for about two months but they've been connected much longer through our partner organization, Foster Supports of Jefferson County. The two have been able to create a lifelong connection that is based on consistency and safety. Our Dare to Dream program offers an opportunity to individually serve an aged-out or at-risk to age out youth in foster care. Our mentors are advocates, teachers, guides, role models, valued friends, and available resources.
We had the opportunity to share some time with Elsa and ask a few questions about her experience as a mentor and how she has been impacted. Here is what Elsa had to say:
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A DARE TO DREAM MENTOR?
I liked the idea of being a friend to a teen that is getting their life ready to launch. For them there has not been much consistency with a person who has belief in them. I am honored that they said yes to this relationship.
WHAT TYPE OF SUPPORT DO YOU PROVIDE YOUR YOUTH?
In regular meetups, I am telling them by my actions that I follow through and think they are fun to be with. We talk about what they want to discuss and I make sure I focus on them. We have looked into how to apply for a job and met the personnel man at Carl’s Lumber. We have talked a lot about school, helped them get registered and what school means to them. I attended their IEP, met his family, and I fed them what they wanted!
HOW DOES BEING A MENTOR IMPACT YOUR YOUTH AND YOURSELF?
They seem to be happy when I come see them and they teach me about Magic, the Gathering. They were quite happy to see their former speech teacher who is a friend of mine. Being a mentor helps define our relationship, I don’t have to fix them or the system they are in…I just get to be a consistent person who cares what happens to them.
WHAT’S MOST DIFFICULT OR FRUSTRATING ABOUT BEING A MENTOR?
Trying to reach them. They do not have minutes on their phone and they do not answer emails. We do have a consistent meeting time at home where we both are each time.
WHAT’S MOST REWARDING ABOUT BEING A MENTOR?
Their smile and willingness to be involved with an adult who cares.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT FOSTER CARE?
No matter what the situation is it is very tough to not have a family that you can count on to see you through life. At 16, they have a roof over their head and love from a family member but are missing so many pieces. They have had many extremely rough times that have left scars.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE US TO KNOW?
Foster care can provide what a person needs to grow and develop especially when the community surrounds you by guiding you through these various stages of life. Each person in our larger community can contribute something to a foster child that completes the picture. It is not hard to love a child or teen and give yourself to see another blossom.
Olympic Angels is founded on the vision that every young person in foster care deserves healthy, affirming, and lasting relationships with trusted adults.
Our belief is that if the harm came to children in relationships than that is where the healing will happen as well. We all can do something to improve foster care for children. Most of the work to be done is relationship work. Work that is done by committed adults showing up again and again and again to remind children that their lives matter. This is slow work and the most important kind.
We are watching in amazement as healthy relationships with committed volunteers change the actual experience of the foster care system for our children. In our small corner of the world, the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, it turns out that community involvement was what was missing from the foster care system.
Our goal for 2021 is to see TWICE the number of children matched with their someone this year. Our annual campaign is called Who's Your Someone to keep relationships at the center of all we do. We know that for every dollar raised, we get closer to matching more children with their Someone in the coming year.
In this spirit, we asked for the Olympic Angels community to reflect back on who was someone who showed up in their own personal journey to adulthood. We asked you to tell us what they did for you. How they changed your path. We got back a soulful response from so many of you.
We wanted to share some of your stories here:
When I was 19 I hit a fork in my path. It was impossible to imagine what could be ahead and I had no shortage of strong women in my life, but none of them had taken a path that I could picture myself on. Until I met Olga Ganoudis Designs, the first jeweler I worked for. She had her own business as an artist. She was fun, outspoken and passionate. Olga is an incredibly motivated and motivating woman. I say how much work she put into running her business and rather than scaring me away from that path, it lit a fire under me.
In the years that I worked for Olga I learned about making jewelry and running a business. But more importantly, she was the person who opened up my imagination to potential futures fo myself that I hadn't been able to see before. She was the person who made those possiblities, and the steps to get there, seemed doable.
For teens aging out of foster care, the obstacles are vase and plenty. Rarely do they have that person to help them imagine their future or navigate the steps forward. - Stephane Selle
My mom met Justine when I was only 1 years old in a mother's group and they quickly became best friends. My mom was a single mother and we had no extended family that lived near us. So Justine would babysit me. Her kids quickly became my best friends. I spent countless hours at her house even when she wasn't on babysitting duty.
Justine lived in a better school district and for a few years we used her address as my home address so I could attend a better elementary and junior high school. Lots of times I would go there after school on Friday and stay until Sunday evening. Her home became my second home.
When I was 10 my dad got a different job and had to move from Florida to Tennessee. I can remember being at Justine's shortly after he told me he was moving and crying in her arms.
Justine's house was the best place to be. Full of good snacks, fun and tons of kids. All of her kids' friends were always there and she let them use it as a safe haven when their own family lives were complicated. When I was 16 I was dealing with heartbreak, other teenage emotions and drama with my own mom. I felt so low and so bad about myself I contemplated doing dangerous/bad things. I drove to Justine's and told her all of this and how I wanted to live with her. Her and my mom had a long talk and I got to "live" with her for a week as she talked sense into me and helped me deal with everything.
Justine and her kids were my "village". Her daughters were the sisters I never had. I am so blessed that I had Justine to lean on and love me as her own. - Joy Johnson
Growing up with two much older siblings and a widowed, hard working mother, I was a latchkey kid! Thankfully I found a second family in our neighbors, the Woodgates. The three daughters, stay-at-home mother, and Nana welcomed me almost every school day when I came home with Virginia, the middle girl. They always included me, and we had many great times. We even made a laughing record on their old phonograph. When Tim and I married Mr. Woodgate, Vernon, flew to Chicago and walked me down the aisle. The Woodgate family changed my life. - Jan White
When I was little, Beau used to pick me up and carry me. He would lay me down on a hay bale and then pick me up again because it made me laugh. He did this so many times that he made it so he couldn't even pick up a cup of water - his arms were so sore. When my dog and cat died he came over to be with me.
One time my mom and I came back from a yard sale and we got a Belgian waffle maker, and Beau & I were picking raspberries to eat on the waffles. Then bald faced hornets attacked and Beau saved me and got two stings on his biceps and I didn't get one blemish.
When I was starting kindergarten, I had a hard time leaving my mom. So Beau would drive me to school and my mom would give me a lollypop so I had my lollypop for something to suck on while Beau would drive and he would place the same song every morning - it's sort of our song - Don't Stop Believing.
Every year on the first Saturday of November it's Beau & K day. The first Beau & K day, we made crowns out of construction paper. We wore our Beau & K crowns all day. This year when we went to Beau and K day it was usual Beau and K day except for one thing - we had the BEST PIZZA at this restaurant in Bremerton. This year we wore sashes. One year we wore badges.
Every Wednesday Beau picks me up from school and we hang out from 12-3. And once a month I get to pick a place to go out for lunch.
He's my godfather and that's how it became Mama-Dada-Beau instead of just Mama-Dad. - Kenenisa Hanna
It's not too late to share your story to raise awareness of Olympic Angels Annual Campaign. Visit www.olympicangels.org/someone to learn more.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.