I have made it a priority to help Karina finish high school and she just found out that she will finish ahead of schedule if she continues working as hard as she has been doing. We have plans in the New Year to explore career and college opportunities. I look forward to seeing Karina every week during our scheduled Wednesday visits. I feel that Karina blesses me more than I could possibly bless her. She has grown and matured during the last 6 months in many special ways and I cannot wait for our next adventure.
There is one word that can describe Laura and Karina’s story: hope. In a world that can sometimes seem gloomy and dark, the experience that Laura and Karina had together shows that there is a way to foster hope into the foster care system.
There are actually two different definitions of hope. One definition is a “feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” That hope was created because of Karina’s determination. Karina could have chosen any future for herself based on the decisions she would make in the last few years in the foster care system. She chose to join a program that would prepare her for the future successfully.
That hope was also created by Laura, an amazing woman who after prayer and guidance from Debbie made the decision to step up to God’s purpose in both of their lives. We are so thankful for the determination of Karina and Laura.
The other definition of hope in Webster’s Dictionary is simple, it is “trust.”
Mentors play a vital part in Fostering Hope LA because they are God’s hands and feet to foster His hope into the foster care system. Yet, they don’t have an easy role. There is no such thing as a comfortable Christian, and that is shown in the mentorship role. However, their role is so vital that mentors step up to the plate again and again, knowing that a large part of their role will be to build trust.
Laura was perfect for that role for Karina because of her past, her present, and her future. They were connected because of the history Laura had in the medical field. They became closer because of their present interests, and they both have hope for the future that they can be a part of the larger success story of fueling hope into the foster care system in LA and thus changing lives.
January is National Mentoring Month, and we could not be more thankful for our mentors that take more than just their time to say yes to God’s calling.
Mentors are trust builders. They are determination engineers. They are success-fuelers. They are Fostering Hope.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a mentor, click here.
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.