Building meaningful relationships withYouth in Foster Care
At Peace4Kids we’ve had a very busy and productive year.
Each day, our youth inspire us to be more present and aware of the gifts they bring to the world – and in the process, teach us to recognize our greatest selves.
In honor of this holiday season, it is our privilege to share an example of these gifts through a short story of 6 yr old Peace4Kids member Derrick.
Derrick was born with learning differences. At the age of six he had very few words and had learned a few non-verbal signs to get his needs met. All of the foster siblings in his home were attending Peace4Kids and it was apparent (at drop off) that he desperately wanted to join them. His foster mom was cautious about his participation, yet she wanted to honor his wishes and decided to enroll him in our (4-6 yr old) Peace Garden class.
In class with his peers, Derrick struggled to communicate his needs and make friends. As a result, he acted out and often found himself in disagreements with his classmates. During lunch he would sit alone, or with his foster siblings and foster mom. He would watch as other kids came up to the microphone to share about their day with the Peace4Kids community, but he lacked the confidence to take the same leap. What would he say, and how would anybody understand him? At Peace4Kids, our concern grew. Would we have the capacity to meet Derrick’s unique needs?
Enter Toni, a recently on-boarded volunteer stepping into her second week at Peace4Kids. As a foster care alumna herself, Toni had a great level of understanding and patience. She had studied sign language and was eager to offer her expertise to support Derrick in the classroom.
Although a challenging adjustment, Derrick’s confidence slowly began to build. As he and Toni developed their own unique way of communicating, Derrick’s relationships with his peers started to blossom. The other kids in the room took interest in his new found connectivity, learning basic sign-language and working with their teacher to engage with Derrick more deeply.
Noticing this change in his environment, at lunch one Saturday, Derrick cautiously lined up with the other kids sharing on the microphone. When it was his turn, he looked around at his peers and then began to share. He spoke into the mic for over a minute, took a deep breath and looked around again. To his delight, all the kids erupted in applause and Derrick’s face lit up with a smile that earned him a standing ovation.
Derrick is a regular at the microphone now, and although his words are not easily understood, his confidence is unmistakable and his smile inspires us all.
We are grateful for this profound insight, and trust that YOU will follow Derrick’s lead in 2018 – to transcend your destiny.