By Suzannah Noch
FHLA Board Member, Suzannah Noch shares her experience in mentoring a young adult exiting foster care.
He was 17 when my husband and I met him. His tentative smile greeted us as we interacted with him for the first time at an event for potential mentors to meet youth in foster care. We learned that he spent the first two years of his life in foster care, and then returned to foster care at the age of 14 after years of abuse, living in some 14 placements over the next three years. He was nearing the time when he would “age out” of the foster care system -- and was nowhere near prepared for life on his own. He would be at great risk for homelessness and the accompanying dangers.
We asked God to use us to change that future for him.
Kenny’s* years of mistreatment and feeling insignificant showed up in various ways as we developed a relationship with him, including in his struggle to trust that we really did care about him and didn’t have a hidden agenda. But gradually, he started to see that we were in his corner. He began to reach out for help with how to grocery shop, how to cook simple meals, how to navigate the public transportation system, how to understand girls. I spent time examining price labels with him in the grocery store, and we shared laughter over learning to make things like spaghetti and fried eggs (he had never actually cracked an egg before).
He called us to ask for advice on various life decisions, and to talk through hurt feelings when a girl broke his heart. We helped him fill out job applications, and practiced mock interviews. When he got a job, at his request we set up a bank account for him in our name to safeguard his savings from his impulsive spending. Kenny joined us for occasional weekends, and for holiday celebrations – he had no other family to be with.
He began calling us Mom and Dad.
Kenny allowed us to pray with him, and to talk to him about Jesus. He struggled with anger and confusion toward God, but would enter into conversations about these struggles. He attended church with us. His heart softened toward the Lord.
Kenny has now completed training as a medical assistant, and is in classes to be a certified nursing assistant. He still struggles with impulsive spending, he still is uncertain about some spiritual issues, he still deals with insecurity. But he has a hopeful path for the future now. And he knows he is loved. What a gift that is, to know you are loved!
Kenny has been a gift to us, too, and has enriched our lives in countless ways, including deepening our understanding of God’s unconditional love.
Never doubt the difference mentoring can make.
*Name has been changed for privacy.
Suzannah Noch, LCSW
Suzannah is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and serves as a Board Member for Fostering Hope LA. She is one of the founders of the Christian Coalition of Foster Care Ministries and has a private counseling practice in southern California, where she specializes in foster care and adoption. Her husband, Andy, is a pastor, and they have three adult children.