I went to a training today for the youth advocates that work in ACS's (NYC's child welfare system) building. There are 5 of us with very different personalities and different histories. What we all have in common is our experience in the foster care system and our desire to make a difference in the lives of the youth coming behind us. We hope to make their time in care and their transition out of it smoother than ours were.
The two day meeting was called to address any problems or grievances we had with the work we were doing. (It was a brilliant move on our supervisors part because there seemed to be a note of tension and discord in the air.)I didn't think that I would have much to add because I have only been working here for a little over 8-weeks and didn't think that there was much for me to say. About 20 minutes into it we were all (the youth advocates) in heated discussions and outright debates -- with one another, with ourselves, with the supervisors that weren't there -- about what needed to be changed and why.
It went on for about 3 hours with our facilitators chiming in to give us perspective and guidance along the way. Although it was exhausting it helped us to understand the problem and clear the air. I left there feeling relieved. We met again today to discuss how we were going to handle the issues and how we were going to handle ourselves. I didn't think that there was anything wrong with what I was doing (being new and all ^_^) but again I found myself mistaken.
Today, the facilitator gave us a brilliant activity. Feel free to attempt it yourself. She asked us to think about what we would want to hear people say about us -- our lives and work. The legacy we left behind basically -- if we weren't in the room. If we were a fly on the wall eavesdropping on a conversation what would we like to hear them say? Here's what I wrote: "I would like to hear that I was giving, committed, wise, creative, hardworking and caring. I would want the people talking about me to have sincere smiles on their faces.
The people would range widely in age; giving evidence to my decades of work. They would be recounting tales of positive and impacting incidents and thinking a loud or to themselves about how intimately large and caring the universe is when one person with love, passion and daring changes the course of their lives and thereby the history of the world." The facilitator then asks us to meditate on how our behaviors and thinking could either make our legacies come to fruition or destroy them. I began to reflect on my not-so-great behaviors at work. Yea, I though that most of them were harmless; popping out for a few minutes to get a drink , although there was a water cooler nearby.
Ignoring my bosses or coworkers because I thought that what they were saying was useless to me. After all, I was an All-Star! I knew what I was doing. I had to ask myself how my behaviors were affecting my legacy. Then admit to myself that at the rate I was going I would be fortunate to get an honorable mention on the tag of some greater person. "Remember when So and So created a complete system reform for child welfare back in 2015!? Tasha?...Tasha helped. But So and So was great!" Is that what I would want to hear in my reincarnation as a fly? No. More than that there will be youth who will come behind me. Youth who will have opportunity and options that I could not dream about.
Like this internship. Before this youth advocates didn't really exist for ACS, now there are five of us going out in the field and helping youth plan their futures with the ACS's name behind us. If we mess this up will the opportunity exist for other youth in the future when we have moved on? What other things can come out of this internship other than the immediate affects we're having? What would have happened if the 2004 All-Stars (the pilot program) had fallen to petty arguments and discord? Would a 2009 have existed? Would I be typing this right now? I don't know. But I do know that there is more.
So I have some work to do. To the 2010 All-Stars and all the youth in foster care: Think about your legacy and how your life and time in foster care can affect the lives of the countless million of youth who will come into care after you. Leave your legacy for the young people coming behind you. Tasha 2009 FosterClub All-Star *Shine '09!