I’ll bring the party hats! That’s my promise when the adoption court date finally arrives. And I’m good at following through on that promise – I have pictures of happy kids and happy families to prove it! Being invited to an adoption of one of the youth we work with is one of the best parts of our jobs as a Youth Advocate at Arizona’s Children Association. Serving as a Youth Advocate is a role that is filled with emotional ups and downs, and stirs a kind of drive inside the soul that pushes us to be better for others. Youth Advocates are part of our Child Specific Recruitment program. Our work with youth includes meeting individually with youth to engage them in activities geared toward understanding their own personal story, grieving the losses they have felt along the way, and preparing for a new home with a loving family. As you can imagine, not all of these activities inspire happy moments or memories for the children we see. There are often days when we go home crying or drained after a child has found the courage to allow us into their life story. Those moments of total trust take a lot of work not just for us, but particularly for that young person that most often hasn’t had the consistency of someone who will just sit and listen for as long as it takes to tell their story. We do that a lot – just listen. For as long as it takes.
In addition to working with youth directly, we spend time searching for biological connections or natural supports that the child may have left behind. We know these connections are important to the child’s own understanding of their life journey and we try to find as many positive connections for the child as possible. While these connections are not always open or appropriate to placement, the stories of the child’s family and the family history learned can provide the child with a sense of self and a sense of peace about what is coming next. It helps them create and piece together their own story. We see that until a child can better know themselves and where they come from, it is difficult for them to see themselves as part of something else or someone else’s life.
Our goal is to find permanency for the young person. We work closely with each youth to create a profile that best describes the youth to potential adoptive families and this is part of the work that the young person really enjoys. By the time we reach out to Foster Arizona for an adoption video shoot, the young person has already been working with us on developing a positive sense of self and an understanding of what would be a great family fit for who they are. We are forever grateful for the videos produced by Foster Arizona. This is one way we can really share the personality and joy of each child that we encounter in the foster care system. Every day we see children getting lost in a system of disjointed parts, in need of more people who can just sit and listen. When these same youth are ready to work on their own adoption video, we see the potential and the hope rise up inside them. We see their faces light up when they see their own videos. They get to see themselves joyful and laughing, and being courageous enough to tell the world that they are ready for a shot at happiness and love and safety. Each of the youth in our program have a recruitment flyer. The lucky ones get a video with Foster Arizona. These videos make a huge difference in our ability to adequately recruit adoptive homes. We direct potential families to the Foster Arizona website to get a sense of the personality of each child, and send out the video link statewide to potential families. If you haven’t watched them all, I encourage you to do that soon: https://fosterarizona.org/meet-the-kids/. Maybe you will find a child that exudes the kind of energy and joy that your family has been looking for, and you may be that perfect match that we have been looking for, too! Once we find the right home, and the court date is set, I promise I will show up with the party hats to help you all celebrate.
A. Beck, Youth Advocate
Arizona’s Children Association