|Melanie and Ilona (photo taken by one of our awesome kids, Cheyenne!)|
Thanks to CAP and Ilona for allowing me a chance to contribute to our Blog! I would like to share about the special and meaningful experience of mentoring CAP youth, but first let me tell you about who I am and how I developed a desire to mentor.
I am the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) Recruiter at CAP- which means I get to work directly with several of the hardest to place teens in NYS and try to find them loving homes. I have been at CAP since 2005, when I started out as a volunteer. I had just graduated from Houghton College and moved back to where I grew up in Rochester, NY. I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do with my Communications degree, but knew I wanted to help people in some way. CAP eventually hired me on part-time as a Media and Events Coordinator and then full-time. Through volunteering and working here, I learned about a widespread need in my community (and the entire country) that never knew existed. I never knew that there were children sitting in group homes or temporary foster homes dying to be adopted and loved forever by a family. It was a wakeup call to me. My heart went out to the children who had been abused and neglected since birth and, on top of that, rejected numerous times by other families or relatives who were unable to parent them. Some of them were teens at a difficult stage in their life, trying to figure out who they are, without the security of a supportive family.
I became intensely thankful for my own family. I was blessed with a mom and dad who are still married and who always put their children first. Even though my family is not perfect- we have had our share of issues, fights and hurts throughout the years- it was all put in perspective. I realized that I never questioned my family’s love for me. I will never have to worry about being homeless. I will never be separated from my two younger sisters. I will always have people to celebrate with on the holidays and eventually, when I have my own children, they will be there for guidance and support. I am Italian-American and my culture has been huge in shaping who I am. Not only do I have a supportive family, but my extended family is very close and I know so much about my heritage. I can’t imagine being a child feeling all alone in the world, feeling rejected by your entire family, not knowing where you came from or anything about your past. I would imagine one would feel insignificant and isolated. I feel privileged to have been unconditionally supported by family and I want to share this support in any way possible with youth who are alone.
I decided to go back to school for social work so that I could pursue my passion of adoption further and make a more direct impact on children’s lives. I was then hired as CAP’s WWK Recruiter and able to work with children and families and follow them through the adoption process. I absolutely love what I do. Even though there are some incredibly sad days, there are also happy days when children finally find the family they have been waiting for, or when I or someone else is able to significantly impact a youth for the better. Any way that I can help a youth feel better about themselves, or connect them with a caring adult, is one more positive opportunity that they would not have had if CAP was not involved in their life.
Since this job can be emotionally taxing at times, I know that my personal time is so important to keep me energized and able to come in everyday with a positive, enthusiastic attitude. I also feel privileged to draw on my faith with gives me the strength to push on when I otherwise might feel powerless in daunting, complex situations. To unwind, I like to: take my dog Zappa to the park, spend time with my hilarious husband Mike and my crazy family, make specialty cakes, play on my kickball team, play Big Game Hunter on the Xbox, go kayaking and walking, travel to visit friends, go on wine or beer tasting tours, watch trash reality TV or action movies (guilty pleasures), make stained glass, paint, get a facial (with a groupon, that is), go kickboxing and play racquetball. I find that the most difficult jobs can also be the most meaningful, but you need to schedule in some serious fun to keep you balanced!