May is a trying month for most parents and children. It is a month of change, growth, and an expansion of one’s personal horizons. May is graduation month, the month that we move forward with life, moving to the next grade, new school or going for that job. It is a true month of transition. Sometimes it is a month of great turmoil.
As children, we look forward to May with the end of the school year and the start of summer. Summer is a time of trips, camps, pool time, playing with friends at the park until called home for dinner, and most importantly a great time to sleep until you want to get up. Oh, the joy of being young!
Those are my memories and thoughts of May and they are not everyone’s thoughts or realities of summer. What if the end of the school year means you are one step closer to being 18 and homeless? What if graduating from one grade to the next means nothing to you because it is just something that happens… it happens with no effort or personal growth; you are just pushed along. What if summer means that you spend long hours closed in a house watching movies and old TV shows with the same group of people every day? Those people are your peers but you didn’t choose them. You did not choose any of those you spend your time with, and you would not have chosen them to be even considered a friend. Can you see yourself, as a child, spending your summer cooped up with a group of nine other kids, all girls or all boys, which you didn’t choose and whom you may not even like? These are the realities of living in a group home.
Sometimes, there are bright spots. Sometimes there are kids who take the challenges life throws at them, and with a shrug of their shoulders they motor on. We attended a graduation this past week of one such gal. Kiana was a shy, mentally underdeveloped, child who would never give up. She struggled to read and to fit in. She was enrolled in a high school for special needs children at age 18. At 19 she decided she wanted to be a massage therapist. She pursued her new dream with a new-found inner strength that was visible to all. Kiana would catch the bus at 6 am to high school. After school she would catch the city bus to head across town to her massage therapy school, then catch the city bus again back to the group home, usually arriving around 6:30-7:00 pm. We would often be there to witness her arrival home to the group foster home, always with the biggest smile, ready to join in even though you could tell she was exhausted.
Kiana is 20 years old and has graduated both high school and massage therapy school this year during the month of May. She will soon turn 21, the age at which the state sees her as an adult, marking the end of its parenting role. Kiana will move to a separate facility soon to help her learn to be on her own and prepare her for the next phase of her life. We will follow Kiana to be there for her, to answer the phone if and when she calls, to assist in any way we can.
We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.
That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.