September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and on this - the penultimate day of September - the question is, did you know that? If so, what did you learn this month? What did you teach?
Nationally, we have many months with many (often overlapping) assigned causes. Though individuals and organizations attempt to raise awareness throughout each month, it’s often easy to miss or simply stop noticing. The NFL fields, for example, will be dotted with pink for Breast Cancer throughout October, but how many will see that and be reminded to learn more about risk factors, donate to research or take other action? How many will just see cool cleats?
Calls for awareness and action are important. Months of opportunity for learning are valuable. But we have to remember to take note. We have to remember to pay attention in the month and beyond.
As National Suicide Prevention Month ends, remember this: suicide is preventable. Learn more about how you can be a part of that prevention here.
On September 8, the Queen of England passed away, plunging the UK and many other parts of the world into a (sometimes complicated) grief. Three days later, the United States marked the 21st anniversary of September 11. And for the past two and a half years, the world has experienced a tremendous loss through the COVID-19 pandemic. While each of these events impact the individual differently, they are all examples of collective grief.
Collective grief is something that happens when a community - large or small - experiences the same loss. A shared response such as this can offer healing, as community members come together to support and remember. However, it can also cause conflict as individuals react in a wide range of ways.
Society today is forever interwoven. We will inevitably continue to experience loss as large and small communities. We will inevitably mourn together while mourning individually. In doing so, we must remember to support each other while leaving space for personal response and emotions. As ever and as we have said many times since 2020, though we may all be in the same storm, we are in different boats.
My nephew recently left for his freshman year of college. As he did, my sister was told that there are three times through the first semester that her son will be most homesick - at 3 days, when the newness fades and he realizes this is it, at 3 weeks when he realizes how much work is involved and at 3 months when finals hit.
For most colleges in the area, we are at three weeks right now, and those first year students are in deep with papers, reading material, quizzes, presentations and more. If/when they begin to feel overwhelmed, many will call home to talk to their parents, their grandparents, even their siblings for an ounce of reassurance. But what about the students who don’t have someone to call or whose phone call only adds more stress to their day?
For many young people who have aged out of foster care, they do so without a caring adult or only with caring adults who came into their lives as professionals (case managers, counselors, etc.). At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we aim to match Fellows with that caring adult - someone they can call when the course load feels like too much or even when it feels like too little.
If you’d like to be that person, that Mentor, contact the R.J. Leonard Foundation here.
RJLF is excited to welcome two interns for the 2022-23 school year! Casey and Kait join us from Gwynedd Mercy University where they study social work. Over the next 9 months, they will help us with events, workshops, resources and more. We can’t wait for them to get started and, even more, for you to get to know them. Learn a little more about Casey and Kait below!
Hi! I’m Casey, RJLF's newest intern! I have explored plenty of different majors throughout my college years, from education to wanting to be a radiologic technologist. It wasn’t until I found Social Work that I knew this is the career path I should be on. I have always been driven to give others the resources they need to thrive in society. When I first learned about RJLF I knew that this is where I wanted to intern. I'm all in when it comes to children or young adults and making their lives the best that I can be! I look forward to learning more about the foster care system and RJLF throughout my time here!
Hello! My name is Kait. I am the new senior intern here at RJLF! In my final year at Gwynedd Mercy University, I have joined the team in helping change the lives of young adults forever. With my own experience in foster care, it has become my mission to give back to the community and help provide additional resources and support to children and young adults who strive for a positive future. Having experiences in healthcare, geriatrics, infant care, and many more, as I near graduation I have realized that my passion for Social Work lies within young adult care. Previous mentors, professors, and fellow Social Workers have prepared me to utilize my education and life experiences to not only support foster youth, but leave a positive impact on this system. I look forward to working with the RJLF and can’t wait to learn so much more!
One of RJLF’s Fellows recently received a chronic health diagnosis - a diagnosis that she can manage but that has scared her nonetheless. In trying to find her a support group, someone to talk to about the changes she has to make and the daunting nature of “lifelong”, we found . . . nothing. The local association does not hold or know of any support groups, and Googling is overwhelming, unconfirmed and ultimately unhelpful.
We are fortunate enough at RJLF to have a variety of Board Members, one of whom is a nurse and offered to speak with the Fellow. However, we know that this is not an isolated incident. Our Fellows will frequently face challenges that require previously unknown/untapped resources. That’s where you come in.
We want to know what is available in Bucks and Montgomery Counties and the surrounding areas. We want to be able to point our Fellows in the right direction when they need support. If you know of a resource that might be helpful now or in the future, please reach out, so that we can add it to our list.
For the third year in a row, The Vine at Doylestown United Methodist Church fulfilled the school supply lists for our Fellows’ children. We received bags filled with crayons, markers, notebooks, headphones, Lysol wipes and more. The kids are set and ready to go as the first day of school arrives this Monday for nearly all of them!
What’s more, in the last two weeks alone the Vine has also helped us get food for a Fellow on campus with a mostly closed cafeteria and diapers for an ever-growing baby. We could not be more grateful for such an amazing and generous community partner.
What does wellness mean to you?
Tips on wellness might include drinking more water, taking walks,meditating and finding “me” time. While that’s all well and good, such suggestions require a certain luxury and privilege. They require time, if not other resources. How then can a single mother of three, working multiple jobs to stay afloat find an opportunity for increased wellness? What about a teenager in a group home who must request a pass or be accompanied to go on a walk?
Calls for better wellness are ineffective at best when individuals can in no way live up to our definition of it.
That’s not to say that wellness isn’t important. Everyone should have the chance for self-care, for improved mental and physical health. But for that to happen, we as a society must work to make it more accessible to everyone, without judgment. We must recognize the barriers in place for all individuals and determine how best to eliminate them. We must, in a sense, increase our society’s overall wellness so as to increase the individual’s.
Save the Date! The R. J. Leonard Foundation’s annual Heart for Change gala will be October 27, 2022 at Cedarbrook Country Club. We are thrilled to announce that the gala will be held fully in-person this year, as well. We can’t wait to see you - to share more about RJLF, raise money for our Fellows, and enjoy good food, good drinks and good times.
Tickets go on sale soon! Watch your inbox and social media for details.
To donate auction items, visit https://H4C.givesmart.com.
Somehow, it’s August. Relatively speaking, we are just moments away from back to school, Halloween, the holidays and another year. As we all do, we will soon be remarking on how quickly time flies, how much changes in the blink of an eye. But for youth in foster care, that quickly speeding time can run simultaneously with a life standing still.
For so many of us, reflecting on what has just passed is an opportunity to wax poetic about happy memories, growing children, milestone moments. While youth in foster care may have glimpses of that, they have, in many ways, experienced that time differently. Another summer passing, another school year starting, is often a reminder that they remain in the system. They are not home.They do not have the same privileges as their peers. They are not flying through a “normal” childhood.
Remember that as you see opportunities through the remainder of this year to help fill backpacks, grant holiday wishes, and more for young people in foster care. Those small gestures from you may not give youth the “normalcy” they deserve, but it will give them a few more things to look back and smile at when yet another year ends.
At the age of 18, young adults in foster care age out of the system. In some but not all states, they have the option to remain in care until they are 21. Services for young adults who are or have been in foster care, such as independent living and housing assistance programs, typically last until age 21 as well, with some now extending to age 23. Beyond that cutoff of 21 (or 23) is a dearth of services. There are a few transition age youth programs that work with young people to 26, but they are more limited in their scope.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we do not have an age limit. We recognize that a young person may not be ready to pursue career or education goals until they are older than 18, 21, or 23. We know that “life” may make the education process longer, particularly when children and additional responsibilities are involved. And we are privileged to be able to help our Fellows without the constraints of age or time. We are a support no matter what.
To be a part of that support, visit https://www.rjleonardfoundation.org/ to learn more and get involved.