Op-Ed

Voices For Children is making a difference for foster children

BY NELSON F.HINCAPIE

Voices for Children Foundation.

Many famous people grew up as foster children. Among them was baseball great Babe Ruth.
Many famous people grew up as foster children. Among them was baseball great Babe Ruth. AP

The mission of Voices For Children Foundation is to provide a Guardian ad Litem to every child who, unfortunately, ends up in foster care.

With the support of private industry we have been able to reach important milestones and continue to strive for success.

But how we measure success for children whose parents don’t have the ability to care for them is a question that continues to haunt me as we struggle to find independent, successful adults who aged out of foster care more than 10 years ago.

There is an intergenerational cycle of abuse and neglect that requires “diamond quality” investing to get the brilliance that every child in foster care has.

At Voices For Children, we have been investing in the lives of the young men and women who deserve an opportunity and simply need someone in their corner to speak for them.

We believe that for children who end up in foster care the best is yet to come.

The pain, suffering and trauma they have endured can be left behind and must become the catalyst for a better and brighter future.

Guardians ad Litem currently represent 87 percent of the children in foster care, the highest rate of representation in the past 10 years.

With the arrival of George Sheldon as new CEO at Our Kids, there is a renewed desire to work with all the stakeholders and make an impact on the lives of children in foster care.

The goal for all of us in the child welfare system must be to measure our success by the number of adults who proudly own their story and can break the intergenerational cycle of abuse and neglect.

While it is a difficult cycle to break and seems like a gargantuan effort, I know that it can be done because I, like many of the young men and women in foster care, broke that cycle,too.

During this summer, Voices will embark on a listening campaign in Florida and to find the now adults who have aged out of foster care, whether they are successful contributors to our society or they are homeless or in prison as most statistics now suggest.

We can tap them to help us be part of the solution to the burgeoning problem of children growing up parent-less.

The children in our community deserve to be loved and listened to without being judged because their parents could not provide for them what research consistently shows is the most important element for human survival — love.

As clichéd as it may sound, the ability for those of us who work in or around the child welfare system, to love the children we serve is the key to better outcomes.

We know that we as human beings change for people, not systems.

In my case I will always remember coach Shannon because she always made it a point to tell me how well I ran and how much I was improving.

She pushed me harder to be better.

It wasn’t the Houston Independent School District that made an impact, it was certain individuals within it.

We will continue to work with organizations to support survivors of human trafficking and work on the front end to prevent young children from becoming victims.

As human trafficking continues to become an issue of growing concern, Voices has quietly been investing in specialized programs to support the young women who are able to leave the life.

Because leaving the life of human trafficking requires much more than simply leaving a pimp or being removed from a situation, Voices has been able to gain the trust of the girls who desperately need someone to be there for them: financially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Voices has invested in the creation of specialized Guardians ad Litem who will support victims of human trafficking, we have partnered with GRACE court, Kristi House, The Children’s Trust and other community organizations to find the diamonds in the rough.

Our challenge is finding more compassionate Miamians whose purpose becomes to break the intergenerational cycles of abuse and neglect, which requires much love and persistence.

Our challenge is finding more Miamians willing to become Guardians ad Litem, foster parents or mentors.

The challenge we have is facing ourselves and our innermost fears and overcome them by serving others.

It is not comfortable, and it isn’t pretty. The pain that we must walk through is not enjoyable because the journey for all the children in foster care has been one of unfathomable hurt.

We will shed tears and we will feel their pain, but when they own their stories and we decide to listen with our hearts the transformation will occur, and we will have met our challenge.

The challenge we have is to let love lead the way.

Nelson F. Hincapie is president and CEO of the Voices for Children Foundation.

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