CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - “I have never been to the beach” we heard this sweet teenage boy proclaim.
He spoke the whole interview of going to Japan, starting his own business and traveling the world. He spoke as if he had a plethora of experiences to pull from. As if he had traveled all across the United States and now he wanted to go further and take on the world. I was stunned to hear that this young man had never even traveled three short hours away to see the ocean, despite the fact he dreamed of flying across the entirety of one.
Our children in foster care often times have limited experiences and opportunities when compared with those who have been raised in one consistent home. It is heartbreaking, but very much a reality that we hear often. What I love about our sweet Austin - who is our featured child this week - is the way in which he spoke about his dreams and aspirations. He spoke of Japan and going there for inspiration when starting his own company. In every capacity of the future he is hopeful and ready to leave behind his past and look forward to a future of promise.
However, when asked about a Forever Family he simply said, “I don’t want to get my hopes up.” Hearing this young man’s vulnerability was an eye opening experience. Despite having worked with children in foster care for almost a decade, trying to process the career aspirations this thirteen year old has was a gift to me. I saw a young man who is ready to work hard in order to create something that is his own. Austin wants to build a future that many would shy away from out of their own fear or insecurity. He doesn’t fear grandiose business plans or the uncertainty of traveling somewhere far away with new culture, language and food.
He fears the one thing that most of us take for granted - our comfort, and security. Those are the things he is most unsure of. He is most uncertain of the prospect of family. One consistent, loving, stable family who will be there for him forever. Logically the thing that seems within grasp for Austin is getting to travel three hours to go to the beach, or finding a family before he turns 18. However, from his perspective it seems too wonderful, it feels slightly out of reach. This thirteen year old should not have to dream of only Japan.
Austin should be able to dream of weeknight dinners at the same dinner table with the same loving people around him every night after school. He deserves to see those same faces at his graduation and then later in the front row of the church when he says “I do.” Austin needs parents who see him as a capable young man who deserves the experiences and opportunities that pour into his strengths and passions to become an entrepreneur who travels to Asia. To be that young man who sets goals and achieves them. I believe he will do those things, like going to the beach, start a company and even travel to Japan.
Most importantly, my hope would be that one day as he returns from a trip, he can walk through the front door and be able to say, “Mom, Dad... I’m home!”
This article was written by Ashley McKinley. the Program Development Director and North Carolina Forever Families Coordinator with Seven Homes Inc.