Timeless gift - a parent's belief

*Guest Column*

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Michael J. Yates, November 13, 2015 PHONE: (865) 719-7221

Timeless gift – a parent’s belief National Adoption Month

The late basketball player, coach, and broadcaster, Jimmy Valvano, famously coined, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” Valvano would die from cancer at 47 years of age, yet he captured an essential, timeless gift from parent to child – that of a parent’s abiding, steadfast belief in their child, transcending distance, age, and circumstance.

For children growing up in the foster care system, the absence of a parent’s belief in them can arrest a youth’s positive self-concept and their resilient capacity to transcend the painful, traumatic circumstances that led to state custody.

November is National Adoption Month and this year’s focus is on the adoption of older youth who are growing up in state custody. This year’s theme, “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family,” calls attention to the primacy of need for all children, even older youth, to have safe, loving, permanent families. Indeed, we never outgrow the need for family. Nor do we ever outgrow the need for a parent’s belief.

Compared to their peers, studies have shown many youth in foster care face higher rates of poor outcomes, such as dropping out of high school, unemployment, and homelessness. “Despite these potential challenges,” the Children’s Bureau reports, “research on positive youth development confirms that children and youth have the ability to overcome traumatic experiences and thrive in adulthood when they are connected to a strong, permanent support system.”

What does positive youth development look like? According to Valvano, it looks like a parent’s belief in their child for starters. To be sure, other factors play a critical role, but the primacy of a parent’s belief in their child is foundational. Imagine the disadvantage youth have when they don’t experience the messaging of belief from a parent?

Fortunately, today’s public child well-being system has made significant strides in advancing targeted recruitment for older youth so that they, too, have a secure base from which to enter adulthood. It’s not a perfect science, however, and older youth are still growing up without the anchor of permanency found in a forever family. We can do better.

Foster youth who are coping with the sad absence of a parent’s essential belief in them need a safe place to untangle the complicated feelings connected with that emptiness. Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services provides therapy services in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan, Roane, and Scott counties. Their professional, compassionate staff is committed to meeting the many complex needs of children and youth with hope, support, and treatment (1-800-834-4178).

As it would happen, my son turns seventeen this month, and as I see his life turn toward the doorway of adulthood, a shadow emerges as he leans toward a life’s journey of his making. My wife and I hope we’ve equipped him with a deep well of assured parental belief, deep enough to nourish him through life’s complexities and challenges as he walks through that door. During this National Adoption Month, let us remember that older youth in foster care are also pivoting toward the same door and will need connections to family and the knowledge that parents believe in them today, tomorrow, and for a lifetime.

Prospective adoptive families can learn more about the needs of older youth and opportunities to positively guide them toward successful outcomes by visiting www.parentachild.org to hear the voices of Tennessee’s youth in their own words.

Michael Yates is Director of Development for Ridgeview
Ridgeview is a private, not for profit community mental health center with locations in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan, Roane, and Scott counties.

Click here to view as it appeared in the Oak Ridger.