Thanks to everyone who donated to my February Random Acts of Kindness Challenge to support Fostering Hope, a Colorado Springs organization who helps foster parents in their task of caring for neglected and abused children.
Together we raised $1,100 in gift cards to lessen the burden of everyday challenges for several community members.
The following are the stories of the community members who benefited from the Gift Card donations.
The Alexander Family
This family specializes in foster children that are hard to place. These children have been in multiple homes and are considered by the child welfare system to be “unadoptable.” The Alexanders create a loving home where these children thrive. The family has 4 biological children, 8 adopted foster children from the ages of 7-17, and a 12-year-old foster child they plan to adopt.
All these children have Reaction Attachment Disorder (RAD). Children with this disorder do not know how to attach to another human being in a normal way. They have disruptive behaviors from their previous traumas where they act out and can be extremely difficult to work with. Taking in one child with RAD is challenging, but to take in 9 children that all have this disorder is exceptional. The parents and the Fostering Hope team work together with the kids teaching them life skills, healthy attachment, and how to bond appropriately. The life changes these kids have experienced are amazing. Looking from the outside in, you would not be able to tell these children have RAD, because the Alexander family and the team helps them every step of the way.
The family has faced a particularly heartbreaking hardship in the last several months after the foster father was recently diagnosed with a progressive and debilitating disease. The Fostering Hope volunteer team has worked to provide them with meals and other support, but you can imagine how difficult – and expensive – it is to feed such a large family.
Some of the gift cards have been given to the Alexanders to help with groceries.
Aaron is a young man, but like many kids leaving foster care he got involved with the wrong group of people and ended up going to jail shortly after leaving foster care. His story is not uncommon. Over half of foster youth spend time in jail within 2 years of aging out. It can be the start of a cycle because once you have a criminal record finding employment becomes more difficult. Many find illegal ways to earn money, get caught, and the cycle goes on and on.
One study found that 70% of the California prison population had spent time in foster care, and the numbers were even higher for death row inmates.
Thankfully, with the right relationships and support, it doesn’t have to be this way – and it is not where Aaron’s story ends. Aaron reconnected with his foster mom after his release, and she helped him form new connections with volunteers and staff from Fostering Hope. At the time, he was working at a moving company and paying $250/month to sleep on a friend’s couch.
Slowly, as Aaron started to feel safe with Fostering Hope staff and volunteers, he began to reach out and get more involved. Fostering Hope helped with getting a new job and a donated car. Aaron loves cars and truly needed one, but never thought he would have enough money to buy one in addition to insurance and registration.
Now, with transportation, reliable employment and a community of friends, Aaron is preparing to live on his own. He is scheduled to move into Fostering Hope’s recently launched transitional housing program in May when another unit is expected to become available.
Fostering Hope plans to give Aaron gift cards to help him get established with food and other move-in related items.
Zachary was abandoned at age 6. After bouncing among foster homes, he was later adopted, but after being abused in his adoptive home was again placed back into the system, including residential treatment centers.
By age 12, he was placed into an amazing foster home also supported by Fostering Hope volunteers. This foster mother specializes in providing a caring and loving home to teen boys. Zachary’s behavior was extreme, because of the abuse and neglect he experienced, but over time with the enduring commitment of his foster mom and volunteers, he began to trust again. His grades improved, and Fostering Hope was able to get him a job at a local car dealership. The day he got his work shirt, he wore it with the kind of pride you might see in a newly minted marine. He began to go on outings with volunteers and connect to other kids during Fostering Hope’s monthly gatherings for teens and young adults. Most recently, he’s found a better paying job with a local construction company with aspirations to complete college, and soon he’ll be moving out on his own. He and Aaron are expected to be roommates when a new unit in our transitional housing program opens up in May. Zachary will receive gift cards to help with his initial move-in expenses.
Nathan has big dreams to become an engineer and was just recently accepted into the University of Colorado at Boulder. For the first half of this young man’s life, there was little room for dreams. Life was mostly about survival, transition, and trauma.
Like many foster children, Nathan moved from home to home, and during these transitions, he missed a fair amount of school. When he was in school, the instability and lack of belonging made focusing on schoolwork difficult. His grades suffered, only adding to the lack of self-worth that foster kids generally experience.
Statistically, only two out of 10 foster kids graduate high school.
Instead, when Nathan struggled in math, a team of Fostering Hope volunteers, who supported his foster family, jumped in to tutor him up to twice a week. Two different volunteers chipped in, not only to ensure he had enough tutoring, but that he could experience the two different learning styles. His grades drastically improved, as did his confidence.
Nathan even found the courage to take an engineering class, where he discovered his love of the subject. A Fostering Hope coordinator took him to a UCCS admissions counselor who also volunteers for Fostering Hope. Nathan was nervous because despite his improving grades his cumulative GPA was still low. He feared being told that his dream was out of reach.
Instead, the counselor told him that colleges would consider circumstances such as bouncing among foster homes in weighing admissions decisions. He would have to continue to work hard, but with letters of support and an explanation of his situation, it was possible. Nathan’s acceptance to the University of Colorado Boulder engineering program truly highlights how Fostering Hope and our volunteers truly do transform lives.
Nathan will receive some of the gift cards to help him get started on this new life when he graduates in May.
Beth recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy. This is not uncommon, as girls who emancipate from foster care are 5x as likely to get pregnant as their peers. When she made the decision to keep her baby rather than offer him up for adoption, Fostering Hope staff mobilized in order to shower her and her little one with support and resources. She and the baby have found a good emotional support system and are in a stable housing situation. She is employed and doing well at the moment, but the transition to being a single mother is substantial. Some of these gift cards will go to Beth to help with formula, diapers and other needs.
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