Dear Friends and Allies,
Relationship matters. I grew up in foster care — I was born into the system and adopted as an infant. Unfortunately, I ended up back in foster care along with my little brother when I was 12, after our adopted father died. I struggled for years — torpedoed a family adoption, found myself living on the streets and in detention. That was until I met my nun, Sister Peter. Everything I know about child welfare I learned by deconstructing all of the unconditional, hard, loving, and sneaky things she did to support me. She saw to it that I had stability in school; a community of friends, and a cadre of stand-in parents; and — maybe most importantly — control over my destiny. She helped me to find purpose and vision for my future.
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and systems that
Simply put, she helped me to become resilient. I went on to graduate from high school and college and made my way into a happy adulthood. Throughout my life I could not help but wonder, “Why me?” Why me, when so many other kids just like me didn’t make it. The reality is, it really came down to luck. I happened upon the right person, at the right time. Children and young people should not have to get lucky.
My favorite definition of resilience comes from Robbie Gilligan, who defined it as the ability to “bounce back from adversity and continue to function reasonably well, despite continued exposure to risk.” Research tells us that resilient youth share several common traits, including self-esteem and self-confidence; a sense of self-efficacy; a belief in their ability to affect their own lives; a range of social skills and problem solving approaches; at least one significant adult in their lives; and a robust external support system.
As we do at The Mockingbird Society, we can build relationships with individual young people and connect them with caring adults. We can advocate for supports and practices that are trauma informed and asset based. We can create opportunities for young people to engage in social justice work and advocacy, giving them the power to shape the future of their world and improve the experience of the next generation.
We may never be able to eliminate all of the adversity our children and youth face, but we can create communities and systems that foster resilience. We can be the caring adults who hold the promise and power to create better futures for our children.