This week we share a post from Plummer Youth Promise Board Member David Guilbeault. David was a resident of Plummer Youth Promise from age 16-18. Since aging out of foster care 8 years ago, he has stayed involved with Plummer, and last year he joined our board. Though he lives in South Carolina, he travels back to see family, attend board meetings and visit friends. While here in May he participated in the Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America Conference.
My Mission in the Homeland
When a colleague invited me to join a panel discussion at the Sixth Annual Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America (REFCA) conference, I couldn’t resist the urge. I decided that it would be the focal point of what I wound up calling my “mission in the homeland.” There is work to be done everywhere, and that includes here at home!
The 2015 conference, sponsored by the Treehouse Foundation, focused on the Power of Collaboration in reforming the way America’s foster care system works. The night before the conference, I attended a spaghetti dinner at the Treehouse Community, a very special place in MA that connects elders, foster parents, and foster/adoptive children in a way that puts the family unit front and center. It was a long way to drive in the midst of a week of traveling all over the North Shore and Merrimack Valley for various functions related to Plummer Youth Promise, on whose board I serve, but it was all well worth the time.
At this sixth REFCA Conference, each of the three keynote speakers was informative and inspirational (truly beyond words, actually). The energy from the time of check-in until the very final moments was overwhelmingly inspiring. Individuals who are some of the best in their field had come together to share progress and ideas that align so well with the focus of Plummer Youth Promise and Plummer’s foster care program.
I had individuals approach me and remind me that what Plummer is doing to connect young people to families is critical, and that we are addressing the needs of our youth in an approach that needs to become the ‘norm’ instead of the exception. That “approach” is our permanency model – simply put, Plummer believes that every young person in foster care needs and deserves to be part of a loving, lifelong family, no matter what that youth’s circumstance, age or challenges. The Treehouse Community is a living example of how kids can thrive when they’re in that supportive environment.
There was one downfall to the conference – concurrent sessions meant that as a panelist I would only get to attend one other workshop, and choosing between them was difficult! I joined Plummer’s Executive Director, James Lister for the panel entitled Family Finding at Its Best. Our focus was best practices for permanency outcomes for older foster children. It was exciting to discuss the inspired work that Plummer Youth Promise and Plummer Foster Care have been doing to find permanency for our youth.
This type of event gave me great insight into the recognition that Plummer Youth Promise is receiving for being at the forefront of what we hope to achieve on a broad scale – keeping kids home whenever possible, getting kids back home as quickly as possible, or finding kids a home when the first two options aren’t achievable. We have grand visions, not just for our own kids, but for kids everywhere.
REFCA was the high point of a week spent doing outreach and really rolling up my sleeves on behalf of Plummer Youth Promise. I hope we will be asked back next year, and plan on putting this conference on my calendar for the foreseeable future!