As you know, I am not only covering the 4th Annual Intergenerational Writing Project between senior volunteers from Culver City Senior Center and Level 6 students from Turning Point School, I am participating along with the students in completing the homework assignments. Well, this latest one for our session on Feb. 13 is quite thought-provoking.
Diana Bender, the teacher at my table, led into it on Feb. 6 with a quote from Cicero: “Within the character of the citizen lies the welfare of the nation.” We were asked to write a letter to a local paper or politician about areas we would like to see changed for future generations in order to add to the welfare of our local community. [In her email, Sandra noted – you are my editor, so tag, you’re it. ]
While I can churn out prose and poetry without breaking a sweat, this assignment involved creating a convincing argument to induce a specific practical application of the concepts we’d been discussing. My mind went blank.
In a serendipitous twist, the evening of the day I received the homework assignment I saw an email in my Inbox from a very socially conscious friend. He commented favorably on the articles regarding the intergenerational project and told me he and his wife had just joined a tutoring program that paired adults with elementary school students with reading difficulties.
That triggered me into remembering a group of children I’d written about in the past, a group burdened with difficulties no child should have to experience: children in the foster care system.
Children raised in a loving, stable family already have the odds in their favor. But those without families can easily fall through the cracks of indifference or lack of attention. It’s pretty daunting, at best, to try to concentrate on school, extracurricular activities and building friendships when you don’t know where you’ll be sleeping next or when you’ll be told to gather your meager possessions because you’re moving. It’s not unusual for these children to have to endure a succession of placements that are inherently disorienting and unsettling.
In 2010 I wrote about Kidsave, a wonderful nonprofit that had recently moved to Culver City. Its mission encompasses creating change so forgotten orphanage and foster kids grow up in families, connected to caring adults.
In doing the research for that story I learned that there were substantially more programs focused on helping older foster children transition to independent living than there were to help them find families before they age out of foster care.
However, Kidsave is, through its Summer Miracles and Weekend Miracles programs, literally in the business of facilitating miracles for older children who are orphans or in foster care, and for the families with whom they become connected.
Summer Miracles involves bringing foreign orphans here for a few weeks in the summer to be hosted in the home of a volunteer family, in hopes that these children will find permanent families. Through Weekend Miracles, Kidsave works with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to identify older children without family connections so that they can meet potential host families and adults at monthly activity events. Host families and adults complete advocacy training, background checks and home visits. After children are matched with host families, they then spend weekends together to build their connection and/or meet others in their network who might adopt them.
In my story I had quoted Randi Thompson, Kidsave’s CEO and co-founder, who stressed that “we all are responsible for helping these children, both because it is the right thing to do AND because it ultimately saves money.” She cited not only the costs of foster care but also the societal costs after kids age out, such as welfare benefits, incarceration, and unwanted children who will end up in the child welfare system, asserting that “there is ample research that shows that the single greatest preventive factor against violence and criminality is the presence of a caring adult in a young person’s life.”
That brings me to what I would like to see changed to add to the welfare of my community. Since I believe the most important asset a community has is its children, who are truly the hope of its future, I would like to see more children who are in “the system” find families to help them develop into strong, compassionate adults with critical thinking skills who will be the foundation of their community.
We therefore need to get the word out about what Kidsave is doing, and this letter is a step in that direction. I am hoping that people who are interested will visit Kidsave’s website at www.kidsave.org or call them at (310) 642-7283. Children cannot raise themselves, and there is a tremendous amount of human potential just waiting to be tapped. All that’s needed is a caring connection.
With best wishes,
Special Features Writer