We are starting the third month of 2015 and already lots has happened. 1) We were blessed to have published a pamphlet called "Dollars & Sense" to provide a snapshot of the costs of living alone to youths who are contemplating leaving foster care. We have provided that pamphlet to caseworkers in and around Bexar County. We are praying that it will be well received and become a useful tool to assist young people who think that they can leave foster care without having laid a foundation first. 2) We hosted a successful 4th Annual Sweet-Heart Roundup Rodeo Dinner & Silent Auction. Our Western theme, fabulous music by Billy Ray Sheppard and the Main Event Band, and great bar-b-q, set the mood for a fun evening. And, we made our Big Announcement: we have partnered with the UTSA College of Architecture to design our future home. 3) Team YTIA has volunteered twice at the San Antonio Food Bank and we will be going back again in two weeks so that we can do our part to help those less fortunate in San Antonio. How fortunate we are to be starting 2015 in such a positive way!
As we rapidly approach the time of year to give thanks, we are especially thankful for all of the support and encouragement we receive from time to time, throughout the year. We have been getting better at posting our activities and events on our Facebook page and we are thankful to have so many supporters follow us and "like" us. We are thankful that we celebrated our 5th Anniversary on October 13th; who knew just how quickly the time would pass? We are thankful for the fabulous young people who share their enthusiasm and exuberance with us in all of our activities. We are most thankful that we serve a glorious God who keeps us going, giving us ideas, and stamina, and perseverance, and health, and breath . . .
May God keep you all safe and sound in the upcoming holiday season and in the coming year.
Everyone needs a "little shot in the arm" once in a while; something that says "you're on the right track, keep doing what you're doing". YTIA got just that bit of positive reinforcement on September 23rd. A "child of God" who wishes to remain anonymous gave us a gift of $24,000.00 so that we could keep doing the work that we have been assigned to do for our kids in care. We are continuing to grow in a very positive way. In fact, today is our 5th Birthday (or Anniversary). Five years ago, on October 13, 2009, we felt led to begin make it official by incorporating the organization and now here we are, feeling that we are, in fact, on the right track. God is so good. What a blessing!
For those of you who might think that we have not been doing much lately, please let me assure you that we have. We have been strengthening our ties to the young people we assist by reassuring them that we are there for them. We've been teaching, volunteering, mentoring, meeting needs, and hopefully, making ourselves memorable to "our kids". It's interesting, and gratifying, to hear a young person remember what our acronym "YTIA" stands for and to have a real sense of what we are hoping to accomplish. The more workshops we do the more it continues to hit home how much "our kids" still need guidance and direction. Thankfully, though, they are learning not to be afraid (or too embarrassed) to ask, and then to willingly accept (or at least consider) advice. We've got some amazing young people who just happen to be in foster care. Keep praying for each and every one of them.
Those of us involved in the child welfare system (lawyers, judges, counselors, foster parents, volunteers, etc.) aspire to a common goal: to help the children in foster care rise above the circumstances to which they were born. Our expectation is that by housing, feeding, clothing, counseling (we "therapy" these kids a lot), we will show these children how to break the cycle of abuse. How ironic that once these children reach the age of majority we drop them ("if they want to leave, then let them leave") and expect them to fend for themselves. Even at 18 these kids are still kids. YTIA wants to truly break the cycle by providing youths with a life after foster care. Our vision includes not only continuing to teach but also to provide a safe place for youths to live while they gain knowledge, experience, and maturity to become independent, productive adults. On Tuesday, May 6th all of San Antonio will have the opportunity to support a very worthwhile cause: OURS! Please participate in "The Big Give SA" -- OPEN YOUR HEART (and wallet!) and give to support our kids. Share our mission with friends, family, co-workers and invite them to join in this worthwhile effort.
Several months ago we received a call from the Student Transition Coordinator at the San Antonio CAN High School, asking us to talk to some of their students. Some of the students at this high school had dropped out of school, had had discipline issues, had been living away from home, so it seemed like a prime opportunity. On Tuesday, April 8th, Brenda presented "18 and Free" to 18 eager, attentive, students, who are now on their way to graduation. They seemed to enjoy our presentation and they were each given one of our G.A.P. (Growing and Preparing) Packets. Three of the teachers who attended, commented afterward that this presentation was "exactly what our students needed to hear". What a privilege to Teach Assist Encourage Motivate!
When I first started writing this blog, because we had just been "born", I used analogies to a child in infancy. Each year that passes, I continue to feel that we are like a child learning to crawl, stand, walk. We are now starting to move a little bit more and I feel like we are growing up. YTIA is still not fully grown but, by God's grace, we are making our presence known. Every interaction we have with a young adult, every question we are able to answer, every bit of advice we are able to give, makes us feel just a little more grown up. We want to become a staple in the lives of the youths we are committed to serving; we want them to feel that they have a friend in us; that they matter to us, because they do. As YTIA matures, we feel more able to assist the youths about whom we feel so strongly. They will grow up and become mature, independent adults, and in our own way, so will we. Keep praying for ALL of us.
We just hosted another successful event - our 3rd Annual Sweet-Heart Dinner/Dance and Silent Auction. Even though the event was held on a Wednesday night, we still managed to have quite a few young people (in foster care) attend and they seemed to enjoy themselves. Every time we have an event like this we live and learn a little something for the next time, though. I hope we never stop learning because when we do . . . We are so grateful for those who planned, prepared, and volunteered their time and energy. Bless the Lord for His grace!
What an eventful year we had! It's so amazing how much planning and preparation goes into each activity in which we have participated; how much anxiety we experience as the event draws nearer; and then how it's all gone and we're starting another project. We have felt the continuing love and encouragement of our colleagues, and the enthusiasm of our Board and volunteers. Words cannot begin to say how grateful we are so all we can say is THANK YOU. We thank the Lord for His strength and His guidance as we move this organization forward. God bless all of our supporters. Please pray for us in 2014!
I (Mary Elizabeth Fuentes Valdez) was notified on November 21st that I had been selected to appear in a Random Profile to be posted on the Texas Bar Blog page on December 2nd. Why lie -- I didn't even know there was a Texas Bar Blog! As it turns out it is a very interesting page and I got a chance to be on it. In addition to telling a little bit about myself, I also took the opportunity to mention YTIA and some of our activities. This organization means so much to me and to Brenda (Knowles) because we know how much it is needed. Lord willing, someone, out of the 92,000 attorneys in the State of Texas, or their clients, will check out our website and feel moved to work with us in our endeavor to assist youths leaving foster care. I'll keep you posted!
Mary E. Valdez is one of the co-founders of YTIA, an attorney with an interest in (hopefully) making things a little bit better.