I bet there’s someone in your life whose presence and example has shaped who you are today. Can you imagine yourself without that person? In the foster care system, where children often have to move from foster home to foster home, children may have difficulty developing the strong bonds needed for such a life-shaping relationship. The Washington D.C. based organization BEST Kids, Inc. matches kids in foster care with mentors, providing consistent relationships in a shifting world.
Yesterday, I met with Dana Staley, program director of BEST Kids, she shared with me a quote that inspires her work: “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” – Fred Rogers.
Dana Staley, along with the other staff and volunteers at BEST Kids, put this idea into action. By being a consistent presence in the lives of foster youth, mentors answer the deep need youth have to be seen as the valuable and unique persons that they are. As one former foster youth put it: “in foster care you grow up not knowing that you can really be somebody. When I was in foster care, it didn’t seem like I had any choices or any future” (BEST Kids). The simple, reassuring presence of a mentor who believes in them can give a child the confidence to believe in them-self and their future.
The evidence that mentoring programs are effective is striking. Studies done on Big Brothers Big Sisters, another mentoring program, show that students who meet regularly with mentors are 52% less likely to skip a day of school, 46% less likely than peers to start using illegal drugs, and 27% less likely to start drinking (BEST Kids).
Mentorship doesn’t just help kids by keeping them out of trouble. BEST Kids mentors and programs provide foster youth with positive experiences—from grocery shopping and setting career goals, to experiencing nature and culture, to creating art. These activities often take place with groups of foster youth peers and mentors, creating a sense of community and solidarity.
It’s inspiring to me to see how the simple act of being consistently and intentionally present in someone’s life can help them to see and reach their full potential. BEST Kids is currently looking for mentors, who they will match with youth between the ages of 6-21 based on common interests, personalities, and geographical proximity. What an amazing opportunity! Mentors can bring new perspectives and possibilities of growth into a child’s life, and mentors themselves can grow through getting to know someone who has persevered through difficult circumstances.
Not in the D.C. area? I hope you’ll still be inspired, as I am, to think about how you can see each person you meet as valuable, with something unique to offer, and help them find ways to express their unique self!
Please visit BEST Kids website or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you connected!