Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Foster care kids - serving a disability of neglect

Disabilities and impairments come in many forms, some are difficult to fathom but just as real as a leg that cannot support weight. One such condition we see on SOFTIN trips is a disability caused by neglect. From among the various groups we serve, this is most readily apparent among foster kids. The sad truth is that too many foster parents are in it for the monthly check and the kids suffer from lack of homespun education and familial experiences They struggle with who they are and what they are capable of. These are the forgotten kids of our society and become our youths-at-risk.

I’m happy to report that not all foster parents are like that, and we can see tremendous differences among foster care kids. During our trips, we strive to serve the needs of each individual as can only be done in small group settings with nearly one-on-one caregiving.

Seafaring Opportunities For Those In Need (SOFTIN), Inc., adjusts our curriculum differently to meet the needs of the physically disabled, or the mentally impaired, or terminally ill, or neglected kids. When foster care kids come aboard, we give them a great deal of personal attention, listen to them when they share their own stories, and focus on the educational aspect of our trips. We also strive to help create that important emotional connection to the critters of the sea, which becomes a very healing force.

Interestingly, foster kids tend to focus most attentively (and more so than any other group) on our talks about job and career opportunities along the waterfront and at sea. What they are capable of and what they can accomplish in their lives are areas where they have commonly had the least adult input yet have the greatest hunger for knowledge. By feeding that hunger for information and knowledge, we empower them to see themselves in satisfying professional roles such as Coast Guard crew, Harbor Patrol Officers, vessel-for-hire crew and eventually captain, commercial fishers, oil rig workers, chandlery clerks, waterfront custodians, seafood chefs and numerous other seafaring positions.

By inviting foster care kids to see themselves in these positions, they feel empowered to develop and believe in a professional goal. In turn, this motivates them to become academic achievers and have a dream to believe in and work towards. And that… is the greatest lesson we can possibly teach.

Capt. David Bacon
Executive Director,

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