Foster the Future

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

When our resident’s join us school has often been put on the backburner.

Shylie came to us in April of this year, at the age of eighteen, and is now enrolled in a High School Diploma program through the Orange County Department of Education with a goal of graduating in 2023. After a two-year absence from school, she is now plugging away. With help from our TLF coaches and mentors, she’s learning how to take notes, study for exams, and actively listen and participate in a classroom setting again.

All of this is going on while she is looking for part-time work, attending weekly therapy, and getting into shape to combat her triggers and learn how to cope with stress to avoid relapse. Shylie’s aim is to go to cosmetology school and eventually work as a hairdresser in a salon.

Another of our residents is Sandy, who is also 18 years old. She has completed her orientation for her High School Diploma program with Orange County Department of Education and is awaiting to receive her class schedule. She stopped attending school when she first got pregnant with her son who is now 2, and then after returning paused again at the peak of COVID.

For many of our resident’s, it’s difficult to stay focused on school and push through obstacles because of past trauma. Our volunteers are critical in providing the safety and support system they need to move forward with confidence.

Sandy is focused on graduating from high school and reuniting with her son while maintaining her sobriety. As for the long run, she’s still figuring out what career to pursue. A big challenge for her has been time management and she is working hard with our team to organize and prioritize what’s important.

We couldn’t do what we do without you, and we’d like to make your giving more personal.

We invite you to be a member of the Leadership Circle, our new monthly donor club. Give a monthly gift of $20 or more and receive a Foster the Future t-shirt (shown below) to wear and share with others the youth you support.

What you do matters!

Join today! Click to donate

 

Be There

This past year I was given a 17-year-old camper to lead for Teen Leadership Camp weekend. We’ll call her Sherrie. Sherrie was a particularly complicated girl. At times she was so mature but could suddenly switch over to reveal the broken heart of a very needy child.

She informed me how much she despises team building activities at camp because she never wants to be touched without her consent. As Sherrie spoke, she opened up about her years of sexual abuse and how difficult it is for her to accept physical contact from others.

Sherrie told me she considered herself to be a Christian, but she didn’t believe God existed. I told her it wasn’t possible to have it both ways…that being a Christian required faith in God. Then she explained that she didn’t believe He existed because He never answered her when she called for help during those years of abuse. I momentarily wondered if I should have somehow better prepared myself to answer this deep theological conundrum. You see, before camp, I found myself worrying I wasn’t spiritually “fit” or “adequate” enough to lead these teens.

I took a breath and told Sherrie that I don’t understand why God doesn’t always rescue us when we ask, but I did know that He had a plan to make something beautiful out of her life if she would let Him. Sherrie became extremely angry at that moment and began to shut me out. I told her I would be praying that God would reveal Himself to her and that she would experience the great peace He has to offer. She responded, “Whatever floats your boat,” and walked away.

Our next activity was chapel. I found Sherrie sitting alone so I sat by her, making sure to give her plenty of space. As chapel went on, she slid a little closer and a closer to me until she was right next to me. Then she held my hand. Then she leaned. Then her head was on my shoulder. Finally, her other hand found its way into the front pocket of my sweatshirt where she clutched tighter and tighter onto the fabric to the point where I’m certain her knuckles were white. I wrapped my arms around her in a big bear hug, rocked her, and told her I loved her.

Sherrie and I stayed in the chapel, and I never let go. I hugged and cried. That was my job. That’s what God put me there for at that very moment. I told her I was so sorry for all the pain she had gone through. She never pulled away once. It reminded me of holding my own girls when they were toddlers.

Later after all the campers had gone home, one of the other counselors told me that Sherrie had shared with her about our time in the chapel where we had held each other so tightly. Sherrie told her that it had meant more to her than I would ever know because she’s never felt that safe around someone, someone who could hold her, listen to her, and love her in her most honest and vulnerable state.

That truly was my job that weekend. Not to be a spiritual encyclopedia, but to be the hands and feet of Christ. To love with Christ’s love. To be available.

We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks for your support and partnership with TLF, which has made events like this possible. It’s national foster care month, and we want to thank you for supporting us.

TLF

Angels Game in Community

The Launch Pad residents were recently given the opportunity to attend an Angels Baseball game. The league has been a long-time financial and in-kind supporter of TLF. It’s these sorts of evenings that allow our residents to unwind, try new things, have fun, and most importantly, be in touch with one another. And we even made the jumbotron!

“I haven’t had this much fun in a long time,” said one resident.

“It was fun to hang out with other residents and just be able to let loose and enjoy myself. I tend to be more serious and am always focused on my worries or things I have to get done. Tonight, was a great chance to just be me and have fun. Thank you!”

These types of outings are important for our residents. They provide an opportunity to get to know one another outside of their normal routines and socialize in a fun, relaxed setting. It’s also a chance for them to see that there is more to life than their current situation and that there are people who care about them.

When you support the Launch pad through TLF’s Annual Campaign, you are supporting the lives of our residents. Be sure to check out our video, where you can learn more about one of our resident’s stories and how she has beat back homelessness. Our goal is to provide housing, support services, and opportunities for enrichment that will help them keep pace with life’s challenges so they can move forward on a brighter path.

Creating Systematic & Sustainable Change

Teen Leadership Foundation continues to be a powerful force linking the faith community to local governments. By supporting our partnering organizations with assistance, awareness and organizational training we are able to promote systemic and sustainable change in the lives of emancipating youth.  TLF continues to be recognized as a growing nation-wide organization that is continually creating a voice that would not normally be heard. Recently TLF was asked to write an article in Fostering Families Today on how we work to provide better outcomes for youth in care. TLF’s founder, Lisa Castetter, decided to write the article from her own personal journey in mentoring, the path through it and the outcomes from it. 

The article is titled: Closing the Chasm of the Team

As we approach the summer months and prepare for our multiple leadership camps around Southern California and the Pacific Northwest contact your local church partner for more information on how you can become a long term life changing mentor to a youth in foster care.

-Teen Leadership Foundation

Lisa will be speaking at Summit 9 in Nashville, Tennessee May 2-3.