I recently asked a new Fellow how others would describe her. She started with “awkward”. Each descriptor afterward was increasingly negative. Then, I asked her how the person who referred her would describe her. “Amazing and resilient,” she said after a pause.
Amazing and resilient.
The young people that we work with at RJLF are often faced with a lifetime of negativity - told that they are not enough, that their responses to trauma are unacceptable, that they will amount to very little. Those messages have a way of dominating the narrative. They become how a young person defines themself.
But every once in a while, there is a person who sees them differently and who takes the time to tell them that - to tell them about the good, the promise and the possibilities that exist inside. Their support may not drown out the negative messaging, at least not right away, but it will become a new voice in the back of a young person’s head. Over time, it may encourage the young person to define themselves differently, perhaps even as amazing and resilient.
The fall semester is ending, with finals either already here or looming in the very near future. Within the next week or so, dorm rooms will empty out as everyone returns home for the holidays and winter break.
But where do young adults in or recently out of foster care go if they don’t have a permanent home?
The truth is, it varies. They may go to an old foster family, to their bio family or to a friend’s home. They may stay in an off campus apartment or find a cheap housing option near school or near their hometown. Regardless, the point is that the end of the semester is not as simple as packing up a duffel bag and hopping on the turnpike. For many, there is a great deal of uncertainty and, potentially, loneliness.
There’s not a quick solution to this problem, but it is a good reminder that young people aging out of foster care need support in myriad ways - at the holidays and year round. If you want to be a part of that support, contact the R.J. Leonard Foundation. More information is available here.
“I’ve never really had a Christmas”
This is what one of RJLF’s newer Fellows told us when we asked her for a wishlist this year. She shared that her only experience with receiving Christmas gifts (she celebrates) had been at a youth shelter while in foster care. Before and since then, she and her family just hadn’t had the resources to exchange presents.
This isn’t a unique circumstance.
Holiday gift exchanges are a tradition most of us take for granted, even while so many are unable to take part.
If you are able, this year help RJLF grant the wishes of our Fellows and their children. Their wish lists are linked here.