Mentoring

Just today, learned about this organization. Many youth in foster care remain there if not adopted at a relatively young age until they “age out” as it is called. Are forced out on their own. I first discovered the Atlanta Angels whose Mission Statement reads – to walk alongside children, youth, and families in the foster care community by offering consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship.

They go on to define these 3 aspects – Intentional Giving is the giving of thoughtful and personal resources, gifts, and care packages that meet the real needs of the child and their entire family. Relationship Building is devoting time and energy to fostering healthy relationships that promote healing through connections and interpersonal bonding. And finally, Mentorship is equipping and empowering the youth in their program to be prepared for independent living and to reach their fullest potential.

The Atlanta Angels are a chapter of a national organization – the National Angels – which seems to have grown out of another more local organization – the Austin Angels. I’m glad to know there are other similar organizations across the United States. This program created the Dare to Dream (for youth ages 15-22) and Dare to Dream Jr (for youth ages 11-14) outreach efforts. These are intended to provide one-on-one mentorship to youth in foster care. Their mentors are advocates, guides, role models, valued friends, and available resources who guide youth that they may successfully accomplishment their developmental milestones.

Young people who have grown up within the foster care system have experienced instability in their lives and often disproportionately suffer with learning disabilities, limited life skills, health issues, and emotional and behavioral struggles that lead to negative developmental outcomes. Youth who age out of foster care without having been adopted or reunified with their families have less financial, emotional, and social support than their peers, yet they are often expected to be as self-sufficient as those who have familial support and guidance. This lack of assistance and resources combined with the various traumas these youth have experienced negatively affects their success and overall well being. As a result of having to overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect, removal from their parents, unstable living arrangements, multiple foster placements, and weak support systems, youth who age out of care enter young adulthood without a healthy foundation upon which they can build their futures and work to break the generational cycles that affect youth in care. 

Mentors provide the wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that these youth need to thrive later on in life. A mentor involved in this program commits to meeting with the youth every other week to set goals and help them achieve their dreams. The organization hopes these relationships will last a lifetime, but the program only asks for a year’s commitment in some cases. Mentors matched with a high school student are strongly encouraged to stay with the youth until high school graduation. The simple act of a mentor telling their youth “I believe in you,” “You are special,” and “You are going to do great things” can change their path completely.

Andy Hardy’s Dilemma

Andy Hardy’s Dilemma was a 1940 short from the Community Chest (precursor to the United Way) in which Andy and his father explore the idea of charitable giving.

In the film, the narrator specifically discussed a Salvation Army Home for Women, stating that the hospital:
“. . . is happy to indulge any mother who wishes to be known by her first name only and once baby and mother are both healthy, the organization will find the mother a job where she can keep her infant nearby with the belief that with her own child growing up beside her, a girl isn’t going to make the same mistake again . . . A fundamental principle here is that, after the baby is born and started in life, and after the mother is well and normal, every effort is made to find work so she can keep her baby. You see, this magnificent principle of tolerance and understanding is based on her own child growing up beside her. She is unlikely to make the same mistake again . . . and oh, I didn’t say anything about the babies’ fathers, did I? And no, I’m not going to.”

The plot is that Andy wants to buy a new car. So he goes into the judge’s home office where his father is about to write a $200 check to charity. Andy drives four cars with his dad as the passenger. They make four stops, one with each of the cars – the last stop is at a “woman’s home”.

Mickey Rooney made a whole series of Andy Hardy romantic movies, some with Judy Garland.

I was attracted to this quote because my dad was born in a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers called Door of Hope in Ocean Beach California in 1935. My grandmother left there some weeks later with her son. She then applied for employment with the Salvation Army and was transferred to El Paso Texas, where eventually my dad was adopted by my Granny primarily (she went through one husband and then ended up with my Granddaddy).

A persistent and determined woman, my Granny never abandoned her adopted sons, even during her most difficult times as a single mother between marriages.