Thursday, March 15, 2012

Creating great fishermen, one teacher at a time

About the author: My name is Samantha and I am Aspiranet’s Program Manager for THP-Plus and HPRP in Fresno. For the last 1 ½ years, I have helped youth emancipating from foster care successfully transition to adulthood. I have spent my career as a social worker (15 years!), working with children and families who need help in healing, even though the task often seems giant and the hurt is incredible. Seeing a child get the chance for a better life makes the challenges seem small and the hard work well-worth it. You can connect with me on facebook or twitter.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” 

In the last 1 ½ years, I have been able to experience social work from a different view, working with young adults who have now left the foster care system and are now trying to make a life for themselves on their own in THP-Plus

The youth in our program are great!  They each have their own personalities, dreams, interests.  As social workers, our roles with these young adults are now more about guiding them in their newfound (sometimes daunting) freedom to make choices and decisions for themselves.  If you’re a parent or caregiver that has raised children and sent them out into the world, you understand what it’s like to watch them stumble and make mistakes, but come back to you for help.

I’m glad that we are starting to recognize that these former foster youth still need our help just like any other young adult learning and growing. We finally have programs like THP-Plus in place to assist.

Youth in the THP-Plus Program

Back to My Fish Story

Every day in this program, our youth face the same challenges in reaching their goal of self-sufficiency: 
  • Assistance in obtaining and maintaining stable housing. 
  • Learning the ins-and-outs of getting a job and then keeping that job. 
  •  Encouragement to further their education and get specialized job training
Do you recognize your own adult children yet?

Sometimes we feel frustrated when we encounter resistance or complacency with our youth. Truth is, we want to see them succeed in life just like we want to see our own children accomplish great things. 

When one of my team members presents me with the dilemma of how to get a youth motivated, engaged, and on a path to progress....and nothing seems to be working, I generally offer this advice: 

Sometimes a person wants to help himself, but he doesn’t know how to do it. 

He may feel scared, or alone, or hopeless.  When we want to help a young person to learn to help himself, we have to let that person know that we are here to walk right alongside him.  That means walking up and down the aisles of a grocery store and helping that youth to budget and spend his allotted amount of money for the month.  Or taking a youth down to an apartment, and sitting with him as he negotiates his rental lease. Then, getting on the computer together and helping that youth find cheap (or better yet FREE) furniture for his apartment. 

It takes extra work on our part to walk with youth in their transition from childhood dependency to the world of independent adulthood, teaching them how to “fish”.  But, when you show someone you care, an amazing thing happens…they begin to care more, too.  Because they know that they are not alone, they are not helpless, and even if they’re scared, someone’s there to support them. 

I encourage all of you reading this to lend your support to a young person making that transition to adulthood.  You can do that by visiting our THP-Plus website to learn about our opportunities to get involved as a mentor, volunteer or donor.

There are so many ways to help a youth learn how to fish. We just need more teachers. 

1 comment:

  1. Good work, Samantha. When I think of my own daughters and the challenges they've faced as they've "launched," I'm stunned at the idea of what it must be like for our youth doing it all on their own with no safety net. Thank you for your commitment!