Child welfare agencies contracting with the government often hold the faith community at arms length. Concerns about the separation of church and state, “political correctness” and misunderstandings often stand in the way of enriching children’s lives – and the lives of volunteers- to provide caring, supportive relationships for the most vulnerable youth. We’re not talking about specific religious beliefs, but about seeing a world larger than oneself. For youth who have learned to distrust, relearning about healthy relationships is an important part of healing and our faith partners can be an invaluable part of that process.
In 2004, we invited a number of ministers to create a focus group to consider ways that we could support the spiritual journey of our clients and provide people of faith the opportunity to engage with youth in a way to help them heal. Guiding principles were agreed; among them, the suspension of judgment. Our clients have often been harshly judged and just as often misunderstood. They do not need another adult lecturing them or passing judgment on history. What they need are examples of living life with purpose, dignity, and mindfulness. Engaging with vulnerable youth is not an invitation to proselytize. It is an invitation to be in the moment with a vulnerable person, to demonstrate compassion, and to encourage a struggling youth to regain their sense of self worth.
Some of our youth request attendance at particular places of worship and staff happily support their attendance. Others attend youth groups on campus or in the community. Participation is always optional. Everyone takes their own journey through this life. Belief in something larger than oneself may be part of that journey. Connecting to others who live their beliefs may be one way to help define a path forward for our youth. And sometimes connecting, in the moment, is enough.
Through the years, individuals and groups of faith have held karaoke nights, decorated cupcakes, strung beads, and shot some hoops. And touched lives in the process.
For more than a decade, the faith community has opened their hearts and minds to embrace the young people served by Crittenton. Sometimes, it can be a rough road. Thank you for your patience when times are tough. Sometimes, it can be frustrating. Thank you or your understanding of youth in crisis. Sometimes, it can break your heart. Thank you for believing that all youth deserve as many chances as it takes. And sometimes, just sometimes, it can make all the difference.
Thank you for believing.
Crittenton Services for Children and Families of Southern California (CSCF) is a non-profit social services agency whose mission is to heal the wounds of abuse and neglect; strengthen families; and help troubled adolescents reach their full potential. Established and incorporated in 1966 Crittenton has a highly trained workforce operating 24 hours a day / 7 days a week providing comprehensive counseling, medical, and other support services to the clients in our care. We provide a full array of residential, in-home, community based, wraparound, mental health, foster care, and adoption services with a service planning area throughout Southern California that covers Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego Counties.