I had a blast bowling with some of our young adults recently! Taking an evening to talk with them, laugh, teach, encourage,and enjoy their company was such a poignant reminder to slow down and really listen to these young adults.
4KIDS serves young adults in the community who have aged out of foster care with nowhere to go. At 18, many of these young men and women are simply not equipped or well-supported enough to really thrive on their own. 4KIDS Transitional Independent Living (TIL2:25) provides a home and a community to teach, train, challenge, and invest in these young adults.
But it’s not just about us speaking into their lives. It’s also vital for us to be listening to them. These young adults hold a unique and powerful perspective on foster care and families in crisis; understanding their stories and really hearing their voices is critical in this work.
“There is a great deal of momentum on the state and national level to rightly position those with lived experience and expertise within the child and family well-being community of practice alongside system professionals,” says Patricia Nellius, Florida Coalition for Children EVP. Youth Voices isn’t just about telling stories. It’s also helping to inform organizations like 4KIDS, encouraging us to implement new ideas and approaches. Youth Voices has been incredible for child welfare because the things we are designing and the programs we are administering need to be informed by the voices that are being impacted by them directly.
Redefining a child’s identity
A great example of this is a child’s case file. In the foster care system, a “file” follows a child from home to home. It is filled with records, details of what happened in their biological family, and often with past behavioral challenges. The young adults participating in Youth Voices have shared the pain that their “file” brought them during their formative years.
They don’t want to be defined by their case file. They want to use their voice. They want you to know them by their voice. They want to tell you who they are, and what they dream of. As believers, we know this is their true identity, who God designed them to be, and not merely a file that gives them their identity.
Finding space to listen
As I am writing this, I am in upstate New York for part of the summer and the quiet here allows me to slow down and listen in a unique way. There are so many different species of birds singing; some of them I know, but some I do not. My sister suggested that I download an app on my phone that will identify a bird from its song or call. This makes me think about whose voice am I listening to. To God, and the kids, young adults, and families we serve? The way most of us live we can just pack our days with so many things, often great things, Kingdom building things! But in the midst of that, we can get out of practice with the art of truly slowing down and listening. I find that when I am really taking time to listen to God and prioritizing that time in my day, it makes listening to others flow out of me so much more naturally.
Raising Young Adults in God
Psalm 46:10 compels us, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
We know that God is working in and through the ministry of 4KIDS and the lives of these young adults, and He has a plan for their lives. Look for opportunities to see that plan unfold, be open to how you may be a part of it, and be ready to listen to the stories God is writing in their lives.
For more on 4KIDS of South Florida, visit https://www.4kids.us/
Read last month’s article by Kevin Enders at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/connecting-with-kids/