Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The power of one

Remember back when you were first on your own as a young adult? Maybe you think about a first apartment or first job, or that first year of college.

When I started my freshman year of college, I knew I had family I could call at the end of a bad day and a home to go to for Thanksgiving dinner. Parents who didn't mind me dragging home a few loads of laundry, and nice folks at our church who sent care packages during finals week. When I graduated, there were people to celebrate with, friends to share advice on job hunting and family to help move everything into an apartment.

Sound familiar? If you were lucky enough to grow up with it, it's easy to take that kind of support for granted. To count on it without thinking about it, because it's simply there.

Each year about 20,000 young people age out of foster care without a permanent family. Without the support or resources to rely on to make a successful transition into young adulthood.

It's a staggering statistic, and it can be hard to know how to help. One creative and powerful example I love is the permanency pact, which is a tool designed by Foster Club. They imagined 45 different ways you could offer support to a young person who has no permanent family to rely on, everything from helping a teen wade through the college application process to something as simple as offering them a place to do laundry every once in awhile.

It's a good time to think about how we can support young people as January is National Mentoring Month. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, an estimated 17.6 million young people - nearly half the population of young people between 10 and 18 years of age - live in situations that put them at risk of not living up to their potential.

As powerful as that statistic is, what's just as powerful is the truth that it only takes one person - just one - to make a difference for a young person. We can all do something, whether it's volunteering as a mentor, committing to a child as a foster or adoptive parent or sending a care package.

Who were some of your mentors or role models? We'd love to hear about them.


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