The Impact We Make

Oftentimes, we go through our lives believing that the decisions we make, the actions we take and the beliefs we have – because they serve our own personal best interests – are independent of others’ trajectory through life’s processes.

Other times, we purposefully choose to get involved, to help those we feel may not be as blessed as we are at achieving a higher quality of life. Sometimes although our intentions may be well-aimed, things do not always go as planned.

William Smith
William Smith

At a recent SaintA Child Welfare All-Staff Meeting, five former foster children presented on the effects child welfare and foster care has on some children. Although their comments were not directed at SaintA (the young people shared their experiences in the child welfare system as a whole), it was extremely emotional for the staff, as we are aware that we are the ones doing the work. Overall as a group, we were affected.

While most of our staff seemed to question the impact they have had in the lives of foster children, I thought mostly about how these young people would manage the rest of their lives. Not just the youths that presented, but the many children whom I have encountered along the way. I wondered, had I done anything to make a positive impact that would help change the direction in their lives?

I began to think about my life. I began to think about my childhood, the effects of being a foster child myself, about the hardships that followed, the struggles that I had on my way to finding myself. I thought about the many resentments that I had suppressed, the anger that I still held for conditions that were pervasive in my life, and I realized that these children struck a nerve with me – not because of my professional obligations, but because they were me, and I was them.

And then, I had a moment of clarity. I began to think about how I managed to become (what some view as) successful. The struggles that I had endured throughout my life may have created a spirited character, but it was those who surrounded me who gave me my life. I had teachers who were cognizant of the signs in my appearance and behaviors and took action, foster parents who were able to step in, who provided my parents a “timeout,” to understand that there were things in their lives that needed to be worked on, parents who understood that they had made mistakes and were willing to swallow their pride and admit they needed help and were willing to work to correct the issues.

I had friends and family who stood with me when I was weak – to give me strength and hope. And more importantly, I had people in my life – from college professors to co-workers – who believed in me. That affected me more than anything else, and I have them to thank for my life.

Not everyone has been through what I’ve experienced in my life, but we have all struggled with some form of trauma or self-doubt, which is what make us exceptional. We work in a field that addresses some of those same traumas, and I believe that we somehow know that by helping others, we are truly helping ourselves.

Whether we are SaintA staff, foster parents, or former foster children, we are good people, strong and resilient, and we have acquired the ability to persevere. And this is the gift that we share.

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