Updated: Jul 29
My journey to becoming an intern at Renewed Horizon started in the Spring of 2021, when my major required me to find an internship to complete. With everything COVID related at the time, I wasn’t very hopeful to find an internship that would be anywhere related to my field of study. I initially reached out to family friend because I knew she was in the human services field. We chatted back and forth for a while, but eventually, it was decided that it wouldn’t be in either of our best interests to continue down that road. Thankfully that family friend put in a good word for me, with none other than, Heather Hultgrien. After talking back and forth, having Zoom calls, and hashing out the final details of starting an internship, it was set in stone that I would come on board as an intern at Renewed Horizon. As a 20 year old college student, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.
Foster care is a field that people think they have a set perspective on and are 100% sure they know exactly what it all entails. In all reality, the field of foster care is something you have to experience firsthand to completely understand all that it encompasses. As an undergraduate student studying human services and psychology, I thought I knew exactly all that foster care does for children and youth. If I’m being honest, I had a three-stance perspective on foster care. One perspective is the kids in foster care have an amazing foster family and home, they have finally found their niche in life, and the entire family lives happily ever after. Another perspective is there are kids carrying around their belongings in a trash bag, sitting on the side of the road, waiting to see what home they get put into next. Lastly, we have the dreaded “Mrs. Hannigan” home where the foster parents are horrendous and are only foster parents for the monetary incentives, but boy was I completely wrong about it all.
My first week here was intense because it was mainly trainings and taking in a lot of information about what could, and what unfortunately does happen to many of the foster youth. After a few weeks of trainings, getting to know the staff, and becoming more comfortable as an intern, I started going on home visits on both the Foster Care side and the In-Home side. If you are not aware of these two different systems, I don’t blame you because I didn’t even know In-Home services was a thing until I started interning. But to enlighten you, In-home services are when an agency is asked by the state to go to a home and see how we can improve the family function and create a better overall family unit for different families. Renewed Horizon staff helps to implement different strategies that are more appropriate for parents and children to use in their home. Renewed Horizon also carries out supervised family visits, drop-ins and family support services.
Initially, I was drawn more to the foster care side because, if I’m being honest, it filled my heart tank more than what the in-home side did. If we are being transparent, the in-home side tends to be more draining, in my opinion. However, both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. Some important things I have learned from foster care are, the need for more foster families is only increasing, which is unfortunate, but a needed reality for many kids. I have learned that many of the families that take in foster kids and youth are only wanting to help these kids be more successful and let them have as normal as a childhood as they possibly can have. I have also learned that whether you work in this profession, you are a foster youth or kid, or you are a foster family/parent, you need to be mindful and aware of your boundaries. It is incredibly important to be self-aware because if you are not, it is going to lead to burnout faster. I have learned that many of the people in this field, the workers, kids, and foster parents, are extremely resilient. I admire all the moving parts in this field because more times than not, they are working together to create a brighter future for the kids and youth in the system. Most importantly, I have learned that my perspective on foster care couldn’t have been more wrong.
From my perspective, we as a society like to create a general perspective or stereotype on almost everything. (I want to preface this by saying, yes you are entitled to your own opinion, I am just sharing mine!) Because I took on society’s perspective on foster care as my own, I came into this internship naïve and, in a way, ignorant. I can’t tell you how many times over these past ten weeks that I have counted my blessings and appreciated the little things, that added up to big things, that my family has and still does for me. This field is designed to take people from the outside looking in and make them uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable only stimulates learning, growth, and reflection and it can be a beautiful thing if one is willing to take the time to take it all in. When I switched my major to human services with a minor in Psychology, I was 100% set on going straight into Grad school after completing my undergraduate and becoming a school counselor. I still see myself doing that at some point, but I can’t tell you with complete certainty if that is still my career timeline or not. There are some very harsh realities that we see almost every day, but for some reason, we all come back to work the next day in hopes to see if there is something we can do to create change for these kids in foster care, because they deserve a normal childhood just like the rest of us.
If you are someone like me, who has had little to no experience with foster care, I challenge you to get involved in some way, shape, or form. I encourage you to educate yourself about foster care. Most importantly, I challenge you to challenge your own perspective. You never know what opportunities or possibilities could be waiting on the other side of the door, so why not just see what could happen if you change your perspective? We as a society typically turn a blind eye to the harsh realities that go on in this world. Just think about it. What are we doing to help the homeless population? What are we doing to help those suffering from domestic or partner violence? What are we doing for the kids and youth in foster care? The list could go on and on. We tend to look at these topics of conversation as extremely taboo and uncharted territory. Why does it have to be that way? Having a simple conversation can bring awareness to something that needs to be talked about.
So if you stumble across this blog or even this website and it ignites a spark in you about potentially becoming interested in joining this field as a professional or becoming a foster parent/family, I highly recommend you put some deep thought into it. I also encourage you to talk to someone about it, like Heather, and gain your own perspective. I have seen firsthand how the Renewed Horizon staff talks about foster care and their jobs in general, and it is the most inspiring thing I have seen in my life thus far, hands down. My perspective has changed to this, there is a lot of good that is in the world, we just need to showcase it and spread it around more often. You have the opportunity to change someone’s life for the better. My perspective moving forward, especially into my career, will be forever changed. I have even thought about possibly becoming a foster parent myself someday. The kids in foster care deserve to have a normal upbringing and childhood just like the rest of us. If you take anything away from this blog post, please let it be this, if there is even the smallest idea or thought about you working or caring for someone in this field, please reach out to Renewed Horizon or any foster care agency, and see what you can do to help. The need for foster homes is only increasing, so please, do not let society’s perspective on foster care overshadow your ideas or thoughts.