This month I had the immense privilege of being invited to be the Social Media Ambassador for the Family Focused Treatment Association’s (FFTA) annual conference. I anticipated that the event would be inspiring on many levels, digging into policy, advocacy, foster care, trauma-informed care, working with LGBTQ youth (and the list of relevant workshop topics goes on). While these workshops were fresh, relevant and well-presented, what really made the whole event special was all of the people I met.
I’m sure you know at least one person who is a Resource Parent, but do you know anyone who has been a Resource Parent as a single woman, for inner-city teenagers, for 27 YEARS? Talk about a veteran! Ms. Hattie was one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met, hands down. Ms.Hattie (pictured above) sat down with me and shared her heart. As a single woman with very little immediate family, she found her niche in foster care quickly, especially caring for inner-city teens. While she may be elderly, Ms. Hattie is anything but frail, and claims that her “kids” give her all of the energy she needs to keep going each day. Her strategy is to “make them come up with all of the ideas,” and then go out and do them! “I need them, and they need me,” she explained. When I asked how she responds when things get tough, she reminded me that, “Mostly, everyone just needs someone to confide in. Just let them talk, and be their confidante.”
Ms. Hattie has been in the game so long that her “kids” are getting married and having kids, and her family has grown by immense proportions, which couldn’t make her happier. Ms. Hattie is also President of her local Foster Parent Association, and a Foster Parent Partner within her agency, and she loves supporting youth and families iron out their differences and make difficult placements work. I think we’d all benefit from having a Ms. Hattie in our lives!
Another couple I met, Rhiannon and Brad, are Resource Parents in Kentucky. Their speciality is special-needs kids, and they have adopted many of their foster kids. Rhiannon is sweet but also fiery and determined, stating that she takes her role as a Resource Parent very seriously, and has become her kids’ number one advocate-- not only in the Child Welfare System but also in the Education System. Rhiannon and Brad are passionate about seeing their kids succeed in school and in life, no matter what their obstacles might be. They’ve successfully navigated through the rocky roads of reunification with some of their kids, and celebrate when they’re able to reunite with their biological families. Those that can’t reunify, they always hope to adopt. So inspiring!
After spending a week with close to 800 people who share a passion and heart to serve youth and families, the lesson I took away is that everyone that has seen “success” in our field has found their specialty or niche, and is doing that to the best of their ability. Whether it’s littles with special needs, inner-city teens, affecting policy change in governmental levels or providing the best health care possible for our youth, we all do it to the best of our ability, and with fire and love in our hearts. As Ms Hattie said, “When it comes to the kids, we all just gotta do what we were made to do. For me, it’s those teenagers. For you, in this season, it’s something else. Maybe in the future, it’s taking in little babies, maybe it’s telling our stories well, or maybe it’s advocacy. We all have that passion in our hearts, we just gotta do what we were created to do.”