The task of our generation is to pass on a legacy of leading-edge thinking that cuts through the illusion that we are separate and connects us in more humane ways. I personally hope to leave a legacy that inspires young people to continually ask themselves, “What Would I Attempt To Do If I Knew I Would Not Fail?”
It is important to me that I leave a legacy that compels the next generation to lead groundbreaking change and transform our limiting beliefs about what is possible regarding foster care – a legacy that shows we have done the math and are paying attention. One that says, “We see the faces of children in foster care and we are not looking away.” One that makes the statement, “We are committed to making sure that their needs will become our compass.”
Over the past six years I have partnered with several hundred young people who share my passion for creating new national models. What is so encouraging to me is they embody a level of enthusiasm that shouts “You are worthy!” to kids in care. They have not put a lid on the foster care box. Instead, they are eager to embrace the kids, each new program idea, and the task of creating a whole new foster care paradigm.
The amazing volunteer counselors in the Camp To Belong MA program, the fabulous folks who volunteer for Sibling Sundays, their peers at the Big Red Barn, the Treehouse community garden, those engaged in Treehouse internships, mentoring programs, community activities, dance, arts and out of school time events – all of these young people bring intelligence, warmth, goodness, and great ideas to the table. The kids adore them and are delighted to have cool role models in their midst. They inspire, delight, teach, and encourage the kids to reach higher. They ride on banana boats, teach double dutch, sing songs, dress up in newspaper outfits, and play silly games. They hold fundraising events and share their excitement with their friends and family members.
I remember one day last spring when we were all playing in the rain. One of the kids ran up to me and said, “Judy, this is the most fun day of my life! I never knew adults could have so much fun!” Imagine what a gift it is for a child who has experienced challenging beginnings to be surrounded by caring people who are available on a regular basis – people of all ages, from diverse cultures, who dance, play, sing, and celebrate life…
When I first walked through the doors of child welfare I was struck by the lack of color, connection, and opportunity. I felt a strong desire to change that reality and knew it was going to take youth, great energy, and a dedicated corps of volunteers to turn things around. Over the past four years I have felt things shifting. I feel it every day at Treehouse where neighbors of all ages are reaching out to one another in ways that Ted Koppel called, “so old fashioned, it’s new.” Last summer I felt it while blowing up balloons for our camp-wide birthday party and when DMC was singing “Walk This Way!” to a group of totally jazzed campers and counselors. It’s a great recipe for change:
* Young people who are enthusiastic and open minded
* Children who are grateful for new opportunities coming their way
* People of all ages headed in a new direction holding child-centered compasses in their hands….