Better Together Toledo offers consistent support to foster alums. Curious how YOU could help change lives, one week at a time? Read on.
WHY FOSTER ALUMS?
Eighteen-year-old foster children are instant adults. When you “age out” of foster care, it means your childhood home was never safe enough for you to return, and no other family adopted you. You are “emancipated” — officially and completely responsible for yourself.
Few of us would hand our own 18-year-old children the keys to their lives, then wave goodbye. Foster alums are no different. They also — especially — need caring guidance and consistent support. Statistics tell us foster alums are significantly more likely than other young adults to become homeless, fall into poverty, drop out of school, become parents, go to jail, fall victim to sex trafficking, and experience mental health and substance abuse issues.
Foster alums need — as we all do — support, acceptance, and guidance. As a volunteer with Better Together Toledo, you can offer all that and more within the context of strong, consistent relationship.
WHOA! CAN I DO ALL THAT MYSELF?
You don’t have to. That’s the beauty of Better Together Toledo. BTT brings together small groups of volunteers who commit to wrapping arms around one foster alum. You’ll join with five to seven other volunteers, people like you who want to extend a hand to a young person.
WHAT EXACTLY AM I COMMITTING TO?
· Your group will meet once a week for one year. (Yes, we know: people get sick, have family emergencies, take vacations. We recognize life happens.)
· Your group will meet over meals and shared activities. (The goal is to create a quasi-family environment. Casual dinner conversation is a time-honored way to become a cohesive, functioning group.)
· Your group will decide for itself when and where to meet. (BTT is consensus-based. Groups can meet anywhere from members’ homes, church basements, library meeting rooms, etc.)
· Your group is NOT here to fix your foster alum’s problems, provide money, or direct their life. (BTT offers no services. We offer relationships. Your main task is simply to be there, week after week. Listen, offer acceptance and encouragement, help the young person identify goals and brainstorm ways to reach them. The group is also expected to use its collective social capital to offer the foster alum helpful opportunities – the same way we’d make connections for our own children, nieces and nephews, and friends.)
… AND HOW EXACTLY CAN I HELP?
We’ll show you how. Better Together Toledo trains all volunteers. We use a licensed, evidence-based curriculum from the national nonprofit The Open Table to build healthy relationships – with your foster alum, and within the overall group.
This research-driven training reinforces the art of active listening; helps make volunteers savvier about navigating group dynamics; helps them better understand the impact of childhood trauma; helps volunteers identify their own implicit biases (we all have them), and ward off judgmental and/or stereotypical thinking.
All this takes place within the first eight weeks of your volunteer commitment, before you meet your foster alum. Training occurs once a week, lasting about two hours,
depending on that week’s curriculum. Training is a shared group experience, which gives everyone a jump on getting acquainted and functioning as a group.
SOUNDS GOOD, BUT I’M NOT QUITE SURE…
Great! That indicates you’re appropriately thoughtful in considering this serious commitment. Foster children typically suffer repeated broken promises, and often find it very difficult to trust people. They need and deserve consistency and demonstrable commitment.
Our volunteers keep their promises, show up when they say they will, and consciously work to prove to their foster alums that they can always – always – count on their group.
Such a commitment is a major decision, and we thank you for giving it the serious thought it deserves. You are welcome to undergo training, which will give you a more detailed sense of how BTT works, then decide afterward whether to proceed. And we always invite you to get in touch any time – we’re happy to talk with prospective volunteers and answer questions.