This month’s post is written by Erin Flesner. Erin is a counselor for Chaddock’s Foster and Adoption Services. Outside of work, Erin loves cuddling and playing with her two dachshunds, spending time with her fiancé, reading, enjoying the company of friends, nieces, and nephews, going on long drives, and traveling to new places. You can usually find her curled up under a blanket, drinking coffee, and watching Gilmore Girls.
Growing up in a small town, there’s not a ton of diversity. We are surrounded by people who, for the most part, look like us, act like us, and believe the same things as us. Then throughout adulthood, we become exposed to experiences that expand our worldviews and make us realize not everyone grew up the way we did and not everyone is like us. These experiences and meeting new people who are different to us can be scary, nerve-wracking, and often lead us to feel like we don’t need to give them a chance. We already know who we like, who is safe, who our people are; we don’t need to give anyone else a chance to be in our lives… Right?
Wrong. I see this differently. What if we’re missing out on the best friendship of our lives? What if we closed ourselves off to someone who could be a mentor or a role model to us? What if we told our soulmate “no” just because we couldn’t be bothered to get to know them? Those new and different people all deserve an open mind and a chance – a chance to be known, seen, and loved.
I’ve been a Foster & Adoption Counselor at Chaddock for over two years now, and through my work here I’ve seen firsthand that each child I have the privilege of meeting deserves a chance (sometimes, a couple of chances). They deserve a chance to have safe places to share their most gut-wrenching stories; a chance to build strong connections with safe caregivers; a chance to realize that they deserve to be loved, cared for, and admired simply because they exist in this world.
Working in the foster care field is not easy. There are so many moments that break your spirit and make you question all hope in humanity. Compartmentalization, reflection, and self-care are necessary to keep going. But then, you remember that it’s not about you. It’s not about how hard your day was or the stressors you’re facing… It’s about the children. It’s about the children who have been through unimaginable trauma and experienced things that, when you were growing up in your small-town bubble, you never thought happened. It’s about the children who don’t know what it feels like to have someone anticipate and meet their needs. It’s about the children who need someone to love them and show them that the world doesn’t have to be scary – in fact, it can be really wonderful. It’s about the children who just deserve a chance.
The work done at Chaddock can be difficult to understand if you’re not a part of it. I feel so lucky to be part of it and to be someone who gets to connect with kids on a daily basis. It’s so rewarding to give these children chances to do so many things. Often, it feels like I’m the one to whom they’re giving a chance. Who is this stranger asking me personal questions about my life? Why should I tell them how I feel? What if this is just another person who is going to hurt me? We’re all part of this revolving door in life of, “Do I let them in or do I push them away?” and we’ll never know what could happen if we don’t let them in and give them their well-deserved chance.
At Chaddock, we are working hard to ensure that we are an inclusive organization that embraces diversity. It requires us to reflect, be vulnerable, open to learning and trust each other to maintain accountability – which is exactly what we ask of our children and families every day. We must also remember that it’s not about us. All too often when trying to understand and accept others, we focus on ourselves instead of shifting our perspectives to that of the other person. When we can truly allow ourselves to lean into the experiences of another person, no matter how different they are to our own, we create room for chances to happen.