My Next Step

August 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Personal Development

I’ve been a printed word person for most of my life…a writer, ┬ájournalist, editor. I have been a mother for 21 years, with kids occupying most of my brain and work the rest. The work came to a screeching halt with what seems like the end of journalism, and my second child is leaving for college next year. I am left with anticipation of a gaping hole in my life.

I saw the writing on the wall several months ago – I guess it doesn’t hurt that so many people from all walks of life are in my position in terms of work – an decided I needed to do something proactive. There was a list of possibilities: back to school (hmmm at 57, not sure about that), get a “job,” just any job (Starbuck’s barista – don’t know if I could handle the stress), volunteer work. I am lucky in the fact that my husband can support the family and the money I make from my freelance writing and edition is pretty much “extra”. I also have a fledgling literary agency www.hortonandgregory.com but that is also a casualty of the printed word and hasn’t brought in much money.

Volunteer work won out. I have volunteered for years and years in my kids’ schools, collected gifts for families during the holidays, worked at my temple, but (and I hate to admit this) I have never done any “hand-on” volunteer work on a long term basis. It was time. But what to do?

At first I thought that I would use my writing skills working as a mentor in the schools, but that seemed daunting. There is a mentor program for girls, Girls Write Now (www.girlswritenow.org), but that didn’t look like it would take enough time. I checked out LA Works (www.laworks.com), an aggregate volunteer organization with tons of opportunities some of which sounded like possibilities…meal service of the homeless, nightly activities with teens, food sorting for AIDS Project LA (www.apla.org) – but I wanted a long-term relationship to be part of my volunteer effort.

In the recesses of my mind, I remembered a friend who told me about volunteer work she had done that involved being an advocate for children who had been taken away from their parents because of abuse or neglect. She found it very rewarding and had forged a close relationship with one particular little boy. Sounded like it really fit the bill for me. So I looked into it. The program that I found had very intense training – 5 days for 8 hours a day – but it started with a 2-hour information session. I could handle that.

In that session, I learned about all this work would entail – the volunteer is sort of a jack-of-all-trades for the child with whom she works. She makes sure that the child’s foster care placement is working, talks with the parents, the foster parents or group home, the therapist, the social workers, the school, etc. The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. It seemed like this program would use my interview skills, my innate compassion, and my intentionally-honed diplomacy skills.

I also learned in the short information session that this was, indeed, a large commitment. I had to vow to be able to see the child once a month for at least a year…that took a bit of thought. But ultimately I decided to sign up for this program. The woman presenting the information really helped me figure out that this was the right time for me – which wouldn’t be the case if I had decided I wanted to travel or look for a full-time job. So I signed up for the weeklong training, which was still months away, giving me time to back out.

I didn’t, I just got more and more excited as the date for the training got closer. My daughter was out of town at a pre-college program, so it was perfect. My son was staying near his college for the summer. So I had no responsibilities. I would be, in essence, a full-time working person (again) for about 5 days.

The classes were extremely enlightening, all about the foster care system, about the legal aspects of taking a child out of the home, how the system goes about getting them reunited with their families or adopted by another family and what my role would be in all of this. The job is to be an advocate for the child who is winding his way through the system, not a friend or a mentor.

The other people in the class, all ages, male and female (but predominately female) were from all walks of life – diverse culturally, economically and professionally. There were retired educators, a practicing pediatrician, students, stay-at-home moms. And, like me, they all wanted to touch at least one child’s life and make it better.

Now, a month after the class ended, I will have my chance. I just got a call last week about my first case. I am excited and nervous. Stay tuned, more to come.

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Comments

One Response to “My Next Step”
  1. Amy Kramer says:

    I’m feeling the exact same things as you. You have inspired me to look at this as a possibility

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