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Arizona’s children association which a strict purpose to create programs for youth and families invested in prevention, intervention and permanency programs. Arizona’s children association is the oldest and largest state wide nonprofit child welfare agencies. Founded in 1912 as a an orphanage for homeless children, Arizona’s children association has a simple consistent mission: protecting children. The organization is huge, boasting over 40 programs, reaching 15 counties in Arizona and reaching as many as 46,000 children and families each year. In July of 2010, Arizona’s children association merged with a program called “In My Shoes”. Founded by a former attorney In My Shoes is a mentoring program giving former foster children the opportunity to give back and mentor current children in foster care. Listening about the effort and time these individuals invest in the progression of these otherwise forgotten children is nothing far from inspiring. There was a need to create this program. Having a relationship with a caring consistent adult is so crucial in child development. The In My Shoes program was created to meet that need.
There are over 10,000 children in Arizona’s foster care program. Many of these children will age out of the system. In Pima county, where In My Shoes was founded there is an average of 3,151 open dependency cases, even more alarming is that 2,800 were living in foster care or group homes. To Joan Wagner, these numbers were unacceptable and unfair. She created the In My Shoes program in collaboration with the Pima County Juvenile Courts Mission statement: To promote the intreats and safety of the community, promote the rehabilitation of children and families, facilitate the protection of children who are abused and neglected and facilitate the provision of families and children involved with the court system. There is one particular issue that almost unifies all cases brought to the dependency system. Children and youth enter the dependency system because they have no parents or guardians who are willing or able to parent them. The youth that are eligible to join the In My Shoes program are youth that will age out of system.
Volunteers make the difference. Walking in the same shoes brings a depth to the mentoring experience that cannot be duplicated. Only adults that grew up in foster homes, shelters or relative care or group homes can participate in the In My Shoes program, for a good reason. No one, not even former children of the state can really understand what any given child is going through because every experience is different. But having someone to talk to, someone to trust and confide in, that caring, consistent relationship with an adult can make the difference in a child’s life. Having former foster children take on the responsibility of being that living proof to homeless and abandon children, that things get better is a service of unspeakable value. Eighty percent of adults in correctional facilities are considered to be “graduates of the state” being a participant in the juvenile justice system, child welfare program, mental heath or the special education systems. “In a nationwide study of runaway youths, more than one-third had been in foster care in the year they took to the streets. More than one out of give toughs who arrive at a shelter come directly form a foster or group home, with a 38 percent nationally saying they had been in foster care at some time during the previous year (Thomas).” Its as simple as a hug. Many children in the system have suffered abuse and neglect whether its emotional or physical, the trauma is real. Being the newest permanency program offered by Arizona’s children association, In My Shoes is an amazing program aiming to find mentors for teens in out-of-home care. They are literally intervening, saving lives and decreasing unfavorable outcomes, creating strong, resilient young adults.
Dedicated adults and alumni of foster care came together to create the In My Shoes program. In my opinion they are taking on the biggest challenge you can take on; filling a void in a heart. The organization focuses on teens throughout Arizona. Spreading a message of hope and staying far away from self pity, yet having compassion and understanding in a pivotal point in young peoples lives. Convincing youth that they are truly worth so much more than the hardships they’ve faced.
Will you be there? In My Shoes works diligently to ensuring the mission, vision, values and goals of the organization are fulfilled. Arizona ranks 39th out of 50 in child welfare. The challenges for child in state care are abundant, disregarding the reason they got taken away from their home’s in the first place, the feelings associated with being away from home are a tremendous influence. A sense of loss, helplessness, alienation, rejection, uncertainty and guilt are never far from the minds of these children, teens indefinitely suffer a stronger “blame” for whats happened to them and their family. Reason children are placed into foster care systems vary. Abuse and neglect are among the most likely reasons a child will end up in foster care. Other reasons include severe child behavioral problems and parental circumstances such as physical or emotional illness, alcohol and substance abuse, incarceration and death. Group homes are defined in the United States as “homes designed for those in need of social assistance, and who are usually deemed incapable of living alone or without proper supervision.” Youth group homes were created to aid teens that are drug or alc ohol addicted, abused or neglected, suffer from behavioral or emotional development problems and/or youths with criminal records. Shadows that threaten to kill the lives of thousands of children without any kind of peril.
Although there focus is not filled with ill intentions, most of kids that go to group homes always end up going back. The difference I saw in the In My Shoes program is stood out too me. They are doing a job so specific and intricate to specifically provide a bandaid to the child welfare system already provided by the state. They understand that they cannot reverse trauma. They don’t want to reverse trauma, they provide a service that money cannot. Emotional support accompanied with a caring heart. Most of these kids have never had any kind of structure or stability in there lives ever. Arizona’s children association and In My Shoes are working together to make sure that they can do everything in there power to give faith back to kids that have lost all hope by being a dependable source of reliability. In My Shoes works to restore your self-respect and self-esteem.
Learning about the people who created In My Shoes, along with being in our social problems class has enlightened me in ways I don’t think I would have ever been able to understand otherwise. The raw love and compassion the people of In My Shoes have for teens is remarkable. I came into social problems class believing that no one really cared, and came out with a newly renewed faith in human beings and there ability to take charge because they have such a fervor for change. I understand now that life has to be unfair, to be fair for everyone. “I’m too busy acting like i’m not naive. I’ve seen it all, I was here first.” -Kurt Cobain.
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