I have some big dreams and visions. And I’m not the only one. There are lots of us who want to do big things with our lives. We want to make our lives count for something. Many of us try to accomplish big things, but because we only have our piece of the puzzle, we fall short. But when we come together, we’re stronger and better able to do big things.
I have a dream to see kids who are growing up in less than the best of circumstances to be connected with churches in communities throughout the country. I can envision kids who have experienced abandonment, abuse, neglect, poverty, or homelessness (or all of the above) connected with the good people in local churches who will look them in the eyes and see the value they don’t see in themselves.
I envision these kids, like the one I used to be, learning to mine the lessons out of all they’ve been through, learning work ethic and character building, and learning how to have healthy relationships with good people. Having been abandoned, neglected, abused, hungry, and homeless in my life, I am confident that what I envision would be prevention of homelessness, drug use, criminal activity, and trafficking.
Kids who feel valued and cared for are less likely to feel pain that leads to self medicating. The sense of belonging they would feel in a church family would make them far less likely to fall for the lure of a trafficker. And kids who learn relationship skills, work ethic, and good character in the safe environment of people who will gently teach rather than judge them are far more likely to find and keep a good job that will help them become responsible, self-reliant adults.
That’s why I’ve invested the last two years creating the YOUR REAL SUCCESS curriculum. The curriculum is designed to help foster kids and at risk youth learn the valuable lessons that will make them employable as they move toward independence. The curriculum is designed to be facilitated in churches in communities across America. It begins with a full day immersion program where kids learn their individual strengths, talents, and abilities, and begin to see themselves as the unique and awesome people they are. They leave the day with a Life Assignment plan, complete with goals, timeline for fulfillment, and connections with healthy people who want to help them achieve success.
That first day is followed by nine two-hour sessions held at the church one Saturday morning every month. In each of those sessions there’s guidance and accountability for execution of each participant’s Life Assignment plan, a lesson that builds on the founda- tion already laid, and the priceless camaraderie of all participants.
To my point of each of us having only one piece of the puzzle, I created the core materials, but I’m not a teacher. I have no training in creating engaging, impactful curriculum. I want to see the emotional wounds of the trauma kids have experienced, healed, but I am a business person, not a mental health professional.
It’s expensive to create and print materials for a million kids and volunteers, but I have no clue how to get funding. But I have faith that I’m on the right track, and that others who have a similar dream and vision and who have the other necessary pieces to the puzzle will meet me on the way, so I keep moving forward.
Dr. Karen Bergstrom, Family Psychologist and Executive Director of Safe Families, Western States, has come alongside to help me make sure that volunteers understand trauma informed care before interacting with kids.
Dr. Sandie Morgan, RN, Ph.D., and director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice shares my dream of preventing trafficking by equipping vulnerable kids to avoid the “pull factors” that result in a life of slavery.
Mari Parlade, attorney and former judge is the Manager of Appeals, Records, Contracts, Fatalities, Litigation, Legislation, Community Partnerships & Engagement for Clark County Nevada’s Department of Family Services. In her work as a family law judge and lifelong child advocate, Mari has seen the tragedy of kids who didn’t have the benefit of a program like the one I’m advocating for, and who consequently live lives of incarceration, drug addiction, homelessness, and other desperate circumstances. Mari is committed to collaborating to do all we can together to help kids in Clark County and across the country to create good lives for themselves.
I’m grateful for the people and organizations that share the dream of kids who’ve had a rough childhood becoming the strong, resilient, resourceful people we believe they can be. Now, we need to figure out how to make the dream a reality in the lives of kids who desperately need our help. If you share the dream, please consider what puzzle piece you might bring, and contact me at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you.
Rhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America.
Dr. Sandie Morgan, Ph.D., is Director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice, overseeing the Women’s Studies Minor, as well as teaching Family Violence and Human Trafficking and produc- ing the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast. Sandie’s background as a Pediatric Nurse brought her into contact with her first victim of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. She is committed to equipping our communities to be a safer place for vulnerable youth.