Happy New Year! I’m feeling enlightened about something that I’d like to share with you all: the pain you’ve suffered in life can either be your prison or your platform.
In the case of Genesis, I was helpless to do anything when he passed. With my world turned upside down, I had no idea what to do or how to react. It felt like the only thing I could do was to put on a good face and keep it moving.
This is Week 6 of our summer program, which focuses on preparing foster youth to age out of the foster care system. We have ten boys from the Homestead community, ages 12-18, enrolled in our program. We meet 5 times every week to teach our boys different life skills and every Friday we go on a field trip.
Our 1st Week’s topic was on Housing. We looked at privileges for foster children once aged out, creating a dream home vision board, owning vs. renting, housing maintenance/responsibilities and housing as a career. We ended the week with a house hunting field trip! The boys got to see houses in a middle-class neighborhood and in a lower-class neighborhood. Understanding the cost of living will help prepare the boys to work hard toward their goals.
Week 2 was Employment Week. They learned about interviewing skills, online jobs, how to present themselves at work, job searching and how to create a resume. During the week, all of the boys learned how to tie a tie for the first time! They also volunteered at a homeless shelter. For one exercise, some of the boys decided to start a car cleaning business. They made business cards and flyers to get the word out and GHH bought cleaning supplies to assist them on the small business. It was a great learning experience for them to create and promote a business on their own.
Week 3 was on the subject of Financial Literacy. The boys learned how money is made, the importance of budgeting and saving, and good vs. bad credit. We took a field trip to the bank and found that most of the boys have never been to a bank before. They saw a vault, learned about debit cards, deposits, withdrawals and how the bank functions.
Week 4 was on Self-Improvement. We had a workshop on self-esteem building and the effects of bullying. We also discussed mental health awareness. To help drive the concept home, we had the boys break up into two groups and perform a skit where the audience had to guess what the mental health disability was. They also learned about treatments that could be used for each disability. We had a workshop on decision-making skills and how a bad decision can ruin their lives. They were presented with several hypothetical scenarios where they could choose what decision they would make and see what the possible outcomes might be. Another workshop was on effective communication. The boys did role play and learned the importance of choosing their words carefully. Through the week, to improve their overall outlook on life, they learned deep breathing methods that can be used for relaxation. At the end of the week, we took a field trip to Dave and Busters.
Week 5 was all about Cars. They learned about car safety tips, how to maintain your car and the rules of the road. Boys also learned studying tips. They broke into small groups where the older boys who were studying for the test taught the younger boys what they’ve been learning from the driving and the younger boys taught the older kids about their dream cars and tips on budgeting. Our fun field trip for that week was roller skating. Most of the boys had never been skating before and they had a blast!
We’re now going into week 6 with excitement as we’ve seen the boys grow so much already. We have two autistic kids who feel like they belong in the group, foster kids who feel like they aren’t alone and that there are others who have felt the same pain and are benefiting from being able to relate to one another. One boy said that he doesn’t want the workshops to end because of he feels a sense of family and brotherly love.
The purpose of this program is to prepare our boys for success. They are learning leadership skills and receiving training to survive and thrive in our society. We have quizzes at the end of every session to make sure that the workshops remain effective, and whoever gets a perfect score receives a gift card. At this point, we’re averaging 2 to 3 winners each week! We provide transportation and food. We haven’t experienced any problems with attendance. We are so happy to report that our summer program is going so well and that we see these boys’ lives being impacted positively every week! We’re so thankful and blessed by your support! Thank you for joining GHH as we continue on our mission to foster new beginnings.
Everyone has goals, whether it’s getting an A on an exam, getting down to that dream weight, or finishing a race. Regardless of our specific goal, we are all on the road to finish a race – the race known as life. We all know that in order to successfully complete that race we must warm up and practice before we’re ready for the grand finale. It may be difficult, but the practice makes us stronger and gives us the energy to carry on. For many it is difficult and there are those of us who find they have to practice more than others. One way or another, we will all reach the finish line and complete the race. Whether you will look back and see that you had a successful run is entirely up to you.
Watching others overcome their struggles during their own race is one of the most inspiring and rewarding experiences of all. It renews our weary spirits and gives us the hope and the courage to keep going.
Recently, our children at GHH were able to witness this for themselves as they cheered our supporter and friend, Sally Ashby, who participates in triathlons and has raised $3,128 for our garden program. Mrs. Ashby has become a voice for the foster care system by advocating on behalf of foster kids, raising awareness and creating a therapeutic garden for the children at the GHH home. While we prepare for our own triathlons, there are struggles that we must face because they are what molds us into the people we were meant to be. Without these struggles, many of us could not gain the strength to reach our goals in life.
This month, our boys made vision boards showing how they will overcome some of their struggles by creating an action plan to become better and conquer what they want to achieve in life. Every day there are foster children who embark on a race more difficult than any of us could ever imagine. They did not chose to be brought up in their circumstances, yet their struggles can be transformed into a basis for empowerment. With the help that they receive at GHH, these children can overcome their troubled pasts and learn from them. Without the support they need, the sad truth is that many foster kids are left to their own devices, bottling up their anger and fueling another rotation in the vicious cycle of abuse, neglect and dis-appreciation.
GHH does everything possible to help these children not only to overcome their struggles, but to use them as a source of strength so they can move forward in life and become better people – even people who are able to help others and improve our society. As humans, I believe it is important for us to aid our fellow human. In doing so, anyone can help foster children finish their race well. Because of the trials they’ve been through, these children could even help you understand the struggles you’re going through and give you a different perspective. Today I challenge you to think about how you could aid these children, how you could make the difference between their despair in the foster care cycle and their success in pressing forward. Stay tuned to see how we can continue to build Genesis Hopeful Haven and help our community grow along the way.
For youth in foster care, the holidays are often a glaring reminder of what it means not to have a family. During this time of Holiday Cheer, many foster children are faced with the realization that they will not be “home for the holidays,” so to speak, with their biological family members. This season may be a reminder of how much they’ve missed out on. And for many children who have been placed in the foster care system, they have come from homes where there was Christmas – there was no hope. They have come from families that did not celebrate the holidays. They have come from environments where there were no presents and no tree. They have come from homes where there was no such thing as holiday joy or love. As a Social Worker, it’s my role to help my kids and teens understand that our community’s desire to give them gifts means only that they are loved. And once convinced that writing a wish list can be a good thing, next comes the awareness of all the wonderful possibilities, and after that the bright smiles as they dream of bicycles, games, dolls, Legos, gift cards, video games and more. To help our kids feel more comfortable around the holidays and to lessen the anxiety of not being with their parents, we decided to come up with our own traditions at GHH. We’ve allowed the children to have the creative freedom to decorate the inside and outside of home however they wished. We had a Christmas Craft Party coordinated by our Friends of Genesis mom, Claudia Santiago. The children made their own custom ornaments out of flour and impressed their finger print on their ornaments to leave their mark forever at GHH. For Christmas Eve, our children from both homes decided that they would come together and have a Christmas pajama party, drink egg nog, watch Christmas movies and play fun board games. By allowing the children to create their own traditions for Christmas, I have found that it has lessened their anxiety, granting them the opportunity to be happy.
For older youth who have left foster care, the holidays can be particularly a tough time. Youth who age-out of foster care often feel disconnected from their former foster parents and biological family. They are typically enduring financial strain as they are learning to manage their lives on their own. One of the fears that youth aging out of the foster care system experience is that they would not even have anyone to celebrate the holidays with and will be all alone. This fear of the unknown causes them to relive the pain of rejection and abandonment during a time when they should be experiencing feelings of love and belonging.
I believe that Christmas isn’t about receiving, but about giving and being reminded of those less fortunate. Just as God sent his Son on the very first Christmas to be a gift of hope, peace, joy and love, we hope to model this message of hope to our kids. Just as they are being given a joyful and loving Christmas, our hope is that they will spread this love to others and learn the joy that giving brings. Genesis Hopeful Haven was founded on the mission of giving a family-like home to foster children in need. Our hope is to provide a safe haven for these children and to reverse the cycle of pain by showing them love and hope, especially during this season.
As always, we wouldn’t be able to offer the support that we do to our kids without the help of our wonderful partners. To all our Friends of Genesis, we thank you for being the true example of what the holidays are all about. We are always looking for new ways to serve our kids! If you would like to share your gifts or resources to foster children, we would love for you to join us in Building Genesis.
Give Miami Day is only 3 days away. You have the chance to be part of the most exciting annual giving event in South Florida! Last year, more than 17,000 donors raised a record $7.1 million for more than 600 local nonprofit organizations. We would love for you to join us in this incredible movement!
Genesis Hopeful Haven would also like to ask if we could use this time to partner with you in building awareness for child abuse and neglect. On your social media pages, we ask that you post a picture of the top 3 items you’d pack if you were only given a few minutes before vacating your home. Use the hashtags #trashtotreasures, #GHH and #givemiamiday and we will repost your photos throughout the day on November 17th.
It’s so important for youth to experience life outside of their normal environment in order to learn more about the world and all of the opportunities it holds. Our goal is that, while children stay at Genesis Hopeful Haven, they will be exposed to new ways of living and better opportunities – that they’ll learn new skills and see the possibility of a brighter future. Support us in funding these vital experiences, such as music class, ballet, gymnastics, karate, boxing and therapeutic gardening. Donations will also help us take our kids out on weekly field trips that are educational and fun, as well as help us build a great outdoor space for them to play on our half acre land.
Our passion is to give youth a new beginning – to help them grow to be happy, healthy and successful individuals that are a positive force in the next generation, despite their troubled childhoods. Your support will also be integral in helping our high school boys to have housing and be able to finish their high school degree. Remember being 18 and still needing your parents help? Well, without parents to help them, our boys who age out of the foster system are left feeling alone with little to no support. All of our aged-out youth are still in high school when they are no longer given support from foster care and are left to fend for themselves. We feel that it’s our job to provide for them financially and as a family-like support system. With your help, we can better help these foster youth finish high school, get their driver’s license, apply for internships and plan their future based on their own dreams and goals. Help us give them a chance to dream of a brighter future!
We need your support on Give Miami day! Your donation of $25 or more can help a foster child start their new beginning.
As we enter our 8th month on this journey of proving housing to foster children, we’ve come to recognize common denominator — isolation.
Broken hearts and lives with no hope of putting the pieces back together often leads foster children into isolation. When we begin feeling isolated, there is a sense that we “don’t belong” and we feel that we’re rejected by others. One of our youth recently posed the question, “ If the person who gave life to me and was supposed to love me the most didn’t want me, how can anyone else?” The vast majority of foster children feel alone in this world – like the only person that can possibly understand them is “themselves.” They’ve gone through so much heartache that, in their minds, it is impossible to find their place in a world that has brought so much sadness and grief. It is difficult for them to make friends as they bounce from house to house and often don’t stay in one school for very long. Rather than painfully conveying to peers that they have no family or explaining that as a foster child they’re not allowed to go to sleep over parties, it’s easier to isolate themselves.
Literature also illustrates that children who have experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect frequently display maladaptive behaviors with a prominence of attachment disorders. Furthermore, these attachment difficulties are magnified by a trajectory of multiple foster home placements. Children who have attachment issues often perceive the world as a scary place and see adults as threats; this results in the child isolating themselves and attempting to resolve difficulties alone because they feel they cannot trust anyone else.
Foster children are:
We’ve noticed these behaviors and have been making strong efforts to engage our youth. We take daily action to help them build confidence. Involving them in different activities, showing that we care by listening, hanging out with them, cooking their favorite meals, accepting them without judgment, checking their homework, providing them with structure, giving them a small pet to take care of, and just doing what we can to help them feel loved – these are just a few things we are intentional about doing in order to help our foster children to not feel isolated. Everyone deserves the opportunity to belong and to feel accepted. We pare our youth with mentors that can help guide them through this difficult journey while minimizing feelings of loneliness.
Each new day, we see more and more just how much work and effort is needed to change the lives of foster children who are faced with these difficult life challenges at such a young age. Be a part of this journey as we give brighter futures to those in need.
Do you remember report card pick-up day? Maybe you remember a feeling of dread or the wish that your parents would just forget to go. To foster children who age out of the system, there usually isn’t the option of having a parent attend school orientation or PTA or an advocator who speaks to their teachers on their behalf. They are alone.
Studies show that nearly 50% of children in foster care fail to graduate from high school. With all of the trauma and uncertainty these children have faced, it is no surprise that there is little incentive for them to focus on their education. And without a high school degree, there is little hope that they will become self-sustaining adults. Education not only supports economic success in adult life, it also provides opportunities for improved well-being in physical, intellectual, and social domains during critical developmental periods.
In most cases, when youth age out of the foster system they are still in high school because most foster children are behind after being placed in multiple schools throughout their school career and missing school due to the numerous appointments they need to attend – and all of this without family support. There is overwhelming evidence that children and youth in care are a highly vulnerable population in our public education system. The achievement gap between youth in care and the general population is staggering, with youth in care trailing their peers in standardized test performance, high school graduation rates and likelihood of attaining post-secondary education.
What makes Genesis Hopeful Haven’s Transitional Living different is that when youth age out, we fill in the gaps of service. We provide a home-like environment, serve as a parent role model for each youth and design an individualized program to help them flourish. We attended senior orientation this school year as well as parent teacher meetings. It’s amazing to see all of the things we’ve been able to learn through these meetings. If we didn’t attend, there’s so much information we would be missing out on that would assist us in supporting our boys. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior. It’s unfortunate, but it’s almost like the system is designed for foster children to fail. Even something that I never appreciated as a child, like attending parent-teacher meetings, brings joy to a foster boy who has aged out and didn’t think he would ever find support. Ensuring that they get the tutoring needed, assisting them with college preparation such as studying for SATs, following up to make sure they complete their homework and checking their grades on school portal – these are all things that children need in order to thrive in school. The power of accountability makes a difference in all of our lives – how much more for these kids who yearn for a connection with someone who cares? We wish we were able to assist more youth who don’t get the support they deserve once they age out. Education is the key to a brighter future and without it, our foster youth will continue down the path of struggling. We need all the help we can get to help more boys succeed. Be apart of our journey as we continue the quest to Build Genesis.