Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Wasn't on my To-do List

Having spent two weeks at home over the holidays I went back to campus slighty caught up with my list of many things I must, should and could do.  I was in my office early this morning and my phone was ringing as I unlocked my door. It was a graduate student in our program. She said she had listened to me and the other professors in this university with the strong emphasis on social justice; our push to "get involved" and "not lose kids because no one paid attention". She had sent me an email at 4:00 a.m. because she couldn't sleep and wanted to make sure I had read it. She had given a neighbor boy a ride home, along with her son and other students in her local high school. The boy, let's call him Bob, told her he was worried because he was going to turn 18 in "40 days" and would no longer be able to live in his foster home. He had been in 32 homes over his short life and without ever finding a permanent family, services would be over in little over a month. He didn't know what he would do or where he would go. My grad student contacted the high school counselor to see if there was a plan in place to help this young man or if anyone was even aware of his situation. The counselor told her that her graduate program is unrealistic and idealist and in the "real world" schools aren't responsible for this kid's living situation.

I work on a project with Treehouse, an amazing organization that supports foster kids with tutoring, wrap around services and case management. I told her I would call my "contacts" and see what I could find. In Washington Bob's situation is not unusual. Foster home placement ENDS at age 18. Also not unusual is that these kids, most who have not finished high school, drop out of school, live on the streets and many end up incarcerated. But someone stepped up and got involved and pushed me to set aside my "to-do" list and make some calls. Connections were made. Treehouse educational advocates are experts who work with schools, social workers, foster families and students to resolve difficult issues and remove barriers to foster kids’ school success. My student is connecting Bob an educational advocate.

I don't know what will happen next for "Bob" but someone paid attention. Someone couldn't sleep thinking about Bob, an almost 18-year old, who had never had a stable home and would soon not have one at all. She couldn't sleep, unrealistic and idealistic person that she is, so she sent an email at 4:00 a.m. seeking advice. This is the real world and we so need people to make a small difference. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

After a long but fairly productive day, I still felt out of sorts. Then I got to read this story. I have some faith back at the end of this long day and I am thankful for people like your student who couldn't sleep and reached out. The world needs many more like her.

Alexandra said...

Although I do not feel the biological imperative to have children, nor do I think it is appropriate for me to raise a child from birth because of my medical problems, I would like to foster an older child for the very reasons your graduate student wrote about. My husband and I are in the position to give a child without a family a permanent home, love, and support that wouldn't end on his or her 18th birthday.

I am glad that there are others who are looking out for these children who mostly do not deserve to be in the spot in which they exist.

Anonymous said...

Incredible story Cinda. You are amazing in how you have inspired these students and then walk the talk. Thank you. Theresa

jdcoughlin said...

Cinda and Alexandra, you are both amazing! I still remember an article I read years ago, from someone like Bob. They somehow made it to college, but felt alone in the world same as when they were a child. When all the rest of the students went home, they didn't. No holiday meals waiting. No presents. No one to show their grades to, to pat them on the back. I wish I had done something. Written to him or something. I so admire your student and her willingness to not let Bob go.

Accidental Expert said...

Reading this literally gave me goosebumps. What a beautiful story. I pray that Bob gets the services he needs.