Leah

Adoptive Parent, Mentor

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I started volunteering with DCFYI in January 2012 after a friend who was on the organization's board described the program to me. DCFYI seemed like a neat volunteer opportunity, one that would be helping some kids, but I didn't give it much more thought.  Well, I had no idea what was in store for me.  I have become part of a wonderful community: adults who I feel a true kinship with, who make up a supportive community for 'our' kids, and a really great group of kids who truly welcome interacting with adults. Every event, I get a warm hello and a hug (and often an update) from each young person I know, and then I go about meeting any of the new kids (and adults).  It's always interesting to get to know the kids, hear their perspectives, share their stories, and hopefully earn their trust. But the best part, by far, is that one of the kids I met at my first event was an 18-year-old young man who shared a couple of my interests - cooking and shopping - and had a similar teasing nature. We got to know each other at subsequent DCFYI events and over occasional lunches when he would stop by my office when in the vicinity. A year later he asked if I would become his mentor; then at the end of that year, I became his foster mother. That spring he graduated from community college, transferred to a 4-year school, and at the end of his first year away, came back and we finalized our adoption. There is nothing I have ever done that has brought me so much joy as becoming a mom to my son.  I am unbelievably proud of him and all he has overcome and achieved. I am thrilled that he shares his life with me and so pleased that he is generous enough to give back, to help others still in care to overcome the obstacles before them.

I mentor his sister, a strong, determined and sweet young woman who, while she shares some qualities with her brother (intelligence, resilience), is certainly her own person. Our relationship is very different from the one I have with my son, but also very special. It's mentor/mentee not parent/child (though I do nag, you can ask her!), so we gossip, talk about boys and dating, and talk about things that happen with our friends. My mentee has been in foster care for sixteen years, yet she is open to new experiences, approaches the world with curiosity, optimism, and has a high level of compassion for others, including me. She is remarkably appreciative of my time and conveys that openly. In the nearly three years I have known her, I have seen her make great strides in her self-confidence, social skills and willingness to trust. I am incredibly impressed by, and am proud of her.  And as I told her as I dropped her off after our most recent adventure, spending time with her is "always a delight.”

So what would I tell people considering becoming involved with DCFYI?  First, just come to an event. Don’t worry about not knowing anyone, the adults will greet you immediately; you’ll feel welcome.  And attending an event doesn't commit you to anything.  Second, a warning - you will fall for these kids - they are bright and capable and amazingly resilient and at times a challenge and they will capture your heart.  But my son and my mentee have enriched my life in so many ways - they keep me young, they provide me with perspective, they teach me patience, and they fill me with gratitude for my family: my parents, my brother, my nephews and them!