Did you know that most children in the foster care system have never had their birthday celebrated with a party? It seems like such a simple thing, but for most kids in foster care, their birthdays go completely unnoticed and it’s just another day without a “forever” family. For most other children, birthdays are happy occasions shared with family and friends, but for children in foster care, birthdays can be a painful reminder of the family they are no longer with. This week we had our first chance to celebrate one of our boys on his special day. A few of our board members and I took him out to Wynwood for dinner and loudly sang “Happy Birthday”. He was extremely surprised and really enjoyed the night. Our goal was to help him to feel loved, to feel special, to feel “normal” and to know that someone in his community cares. I hope that by celebrating his life, we were able to give him a little bit of joy that he can carry with him for a long time.
A study from Chapin Hall, a Policy Research Center at the University of Chicago, finds through research in new programs created to help aged-out children that although those who age out of the foster care system are not exactly falling off a cliff, they are desperately clinging to the edge. Many programs are catered to girls while boys are left behind. Due to the lack of support, they usually end up in jail, homeless, and struggling with substance abuse. These children are our children – the children of society, of the state. I think it’s our responsibility to do our best to help bring positive change in their otherwise unchanging lives. Research says that former foster kids who have someone to rely on do better than those who don’t. I truly believe that despite their circumstances, with a little help these foster kids can grow to be successful and happy in life. This week we are thankful for the chance to celebrate a life of someone who is starting their new beginning. I hope you will be a part of many future celebrations and join us on our journey as we continue Building Genesis.
Last week we had our first outing – a trip to the Miami Dade County Fair. This outing gave both boys a chance to bond and get to know each other. We interviewed 10 boys before deciding on the two selected. Now that they’ve spent some time together, we are so happy to see how well their personalities balance each other out. They both enjoyed going on the big rides – the ones that made my heart drop and caused my lungs not to function properly the next day. Alex loves sports and proved to have excellent aim at the target games. He won the house mom a gigantic stuffed monkey and a Care Bear for me. It brought joy to my face to see us interacting like a family…
Despite the fun and fulfillment of seeing the boys enjoying themselves at the fair, hints of hidden troubles often surfaced. Being in the foster system causes you to build a wall, causes you not to trust others and usually makes you feel that you are unsafe. It’s going to be a process. I can’t wait to share with them the story of Genesis who birthed the vision of GHH and made all of this possible. For now, we are pleased to see that the boys love their new home. One has decorated his room to perfection and the other one is adding a pet chameleon to his “sanctuary.” We are so thankful for Nora Estevez for donating her home to us and allowing us to be rent free for three months. I invite everyone to join us on this journey of providing these boys a new beginning. Genesis Redlands is definitely still in the making. I can’t wait to share the new discoveries we make along the way.
Until next time, friends! Keep pressing on and never give up.
We’ve just had our first boy move into Genesis Hopeful Haven Kendall. He was exuberant and full of excitement about the move. He made comments like, “I’ve never had my own room before,” and “I’ve never lived in a nice home like this.” Seeing his reactions, I was once again overjoyed that our home can provide this for boys in need. We got him settled in and took him out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. This weekend he enjoyed swimming in our pool and taking a trip to Miami Beach. He is a Junior in high school and our hope is to get him prepared for college and equipped for a bright and successful future.
For youth who don’t have the support of a safe family, finding their way in the world can be a difficult challenge, especially for those aging out of foster care. Our goal at Genesis Hopeful Haven is that we provide a family-like environment and give our youth tools for success. Our residents are required to attend weekly workshops. This month’s workshop topics are budgeting, grocery shopping, cooking and creating a vision board. The purpose of these workshops is to give each youth an opportunity to learn essential life skills and practice living independently while still having the support and guidance of caring staff. We will need volunteers to come out and conduct workshops of their choice. If you would like to volunteer, please email Nora Estevez at email@example.com!
Once all of our boys are moved in, we plan to start a gardening program where all the boys will participate in planting their own fruits and veggies. We will focus on a variety of topics, and plan to incorporate the boys’ interests so we can help them become more knowledgeable in those areas. Tony has already expressed interest in agriculture and technology, which has us excited to roll out our gardening program.
Our second boy will be moving in two weeks which is his 18th birthday. He’ll be with us to participate in our first outing. We will conduct one extracurricular activity every month with the residents. This month we are going to the Miami-Dade County Fair. The purpose of our fun outings is to expose them to different cultures and give them an opportunity to develop a global mindset. Cultural exposure doesn’t happen in a bubble. It needs to be incorporated into an individual’s lifestyle, mindset and belief system. We will take advantage of the vast resources Miami has to offer. We plan on having fun with global food, music, books, art, museum exhibits and more. These outings will be crucial for the boys’ growth, but also really fun! If you would like to volunteer to be a chaperon please email Nora at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you are interested in mentoring and tutoring, please email her as well.
Youth in foster care and those who have aged out deserve to have a chance to grow up healthy, get a job and be successful adults the same way as children who have parents. If you have a heart for youth in need, we would love to hear from you. We hope that you can partner with us and become a part of this journey towards healing the wounded, giving hope to the hopeless and providing a safe haven to children without homes.