Hello! My name is Kalynn!
I am a student at Ohio University, where I am finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Community and Public Health. I have decided to enter this field because I am dedicated to making a difference in the region of Southeast Ohio. Lately, it has occurred to me that I probably should have studied Social Work, because I really feel most fulfilled when working with families and children. However, there is so much work to be done in the child welfare system because it is becoming an overwhelming and overlooked public health issue.
Part of the curriculum for my major is to complete a full time internship during our senior year and I have had the privilege to work with the Athens CASA/GAL Program. Throughout my time, I have had the opportunity to observe multiple court hearings, practice the skill of writing objectively and overall the behind the scenes action of a successful non-profit child agency. As my internship comes to a close, there is an overall, impactful theme that I plan to place inside my pocket each day as I embark on a career that serves people: The Power of Connection.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend and assist in hosting an event called Thanksgiving Together. This event is intended for older foster children or for those who have emancipated from care to enjoy a traditional meal with a full table of supportive individuals. I was amazed to see the extent that the team goes to to make this event extremely special. My grandma, who I like to think is the queen of holiday gatherings, would probably feel like she needed to step up efforts to compete with festivities of this event.
Outside of my involvement with programs like Athens CASA, I have no experience with the child welfare system. I have always lived with my biological family and my extended family has had no involvement with foster care. Like many other people who find themselves on the outside of this system, I had a preconceived notion of how children may act or behave when they are faced with this additional layer of confusion in their life. It was very interesting to observe the young adults who attended and their overall upbeat personality.
Gift certificates were awarded from a raffle drawing and each child was asked “What are you looking forward to in the year 2020?”. A lot of the answers focused on reaching a state of permanency, whether that be through adoption, reunification or aging out of foster care. With each answer, you could feel the overall sense of acceptance. It later occurred to me that each child had the courage to share this personal goal of theirs because there was a connection between each person in that room. In my experience, people of all circumstances crave feeling like what they say and do matter. The interactions I witnessed at this dinner didn’t change my mind.
So what does this mean? What can we do, if we are outside the realm of personal experience, but still are passionate about a specific population?
I think we can listen and take what we have heard to heart. We can form a connection with people when we cross paths. In my time throughout my internship, it has amazed me how a simple act of kindness changes interactions from that point forward. The power of connection provides a sense of belonging and worthiness, the idea that someone in this world cares. We are all searching for connection, even if we have steady, supportive individuals in our corner. I believe it is this concept that prompts us to get out of bed and inspires dependability, grit and fulfillment.