She begins the morning conversation with a request, which is her usual practice, “Tell me again about the day I was born. It was a blizzard…right?” I relay the story, as I have done many times in the past, starting with the below zero temperature and blowing snow conditions. She listens with rapt attention and focuses on every word I say. She loves to hear about her first breath. If only her homework could captivate her this easily. It is a frequent conversation that we have and I believe it is a common one. All children desire to know their origin, their heritage, their family heartbeat.
As any child gets older, they begin to crave knowledge about their past. They want to know what their first words were, what they looked like as a baby, and stories about their childhood. For children in foster care, there is often no one who can answer these questions for them. This is one of many reasons why A Family For Every Child’s “Family Finding” program is so important. The program can locate and identify family members that the child may not even remember, and may not have even met or family members who helped raise them. This gives children the chance to build relationships with relatives who can, among other things, help them develop that sense of where they came from and who they are.
Two such children are Nathan and Katrina (names have been changed), a brother and sister who were very close, but did not live in the same home. They were both good-natured children: Nathan enjoyed riding his bike and spending time with animals, and he got good grades. He could be a bit rebellious, like many boys his age. Katrina spent her time reading, running, and shopping with her friends. She had a style all her own, and could sometimes be a bit rebellious herself. They enjoyed spending time together, but did not get to see each other very often because they lived about an hour apart. Both were in stable foster homes, but did not have any family contact other than with each other, and that only occurred through phone calls and infrequent visits.
The siblings wanted to spend more time together, and Nathan was beginning to act out more in school. That’s when their caseworker decided to contact A Family For Every Child. He wanted to find a mentor for Nathan and family connections for the children.
While the mentor director searched for a good match for Nathan, the Family Finding volunteer began mining both children’s files for information that could help locate their relatives. This file mining turned up numerous family members, so the volunteer turned to the Internet to find current contact information, and then made contact with those relatives. In a meeting between the children’s caseworker, the Family Finding Director, the volunteer, and the Department of Human Service’s Family Finding Coordinator, the team was able to identify a solid group of relatives that would be good to reconnect the children with.
A family meeting was held. In attendance were Nathan and Katrina’s aunts, uncles, cousins, a grandmother, half brother, and Katrina’s father; Nathan’s foster mother and new mentors; and the family finding team. Everyone was very eager to establish relationships with the children by writing letters, sending pictures, making phone calls, and visiting with them. Nathan’s foster mother brought Nathan with her, and once the meeting was over he had a chance to meet all of his re-discovered relatives.
The siblings remain in touch with their family now. They travel to visit their family members, and have met even more aunts and uncles who did not attend the initial family meeting. They also get to spend more time with each other now to take trips to visit their family members. And what’s more, now they’re learning about their past as well as finding support they need for their future.