"It's like real family... "
Last week we did our annual youth group survey which sought both quantitive and qualitative data. The above phrase was made by one of our youth and it has completely captured our attention since. His name is Billy.
Billy is a young man who comes from a world most of us don’t understand. Having experienced trauma in the home he is now with a foster family. His behavioural problems, learning challenges and difficulty fitting in at school are all symptoms of his internal world.
I can’t help but have a soft spot for this kid. I mean, how could he not have doubts of self worth, belonging and abandonment?
Billy has been coming for quite some time now. Each week he arrives in a whirlwind of energy and chaos. No night is ever simple with him. The structure of the program, the content of our discussion, the structures of small group; all of it he finds near impossible to engage with. The simple act of sitting at a dinner table with some peers eating pizza is a challenge.
And yet he continues to turn up every week.
And if we squint hard enough, we can catch glimpses of his character development. He is becoming a new person. Slowly, but surely.
But seeing him make that statement for how he would describe what he has found at youth group filled me with inexpressible joy.
He wasn’t the only one to describe youth group like this. The following comments were made by some of the other youth and the theme, unmistakably, is family.
“I have another family, it’s always the reason I wake up on Fridays and I love the people”
“It’s shown me love and family”
“Being in a new and big, growing family”
“Creating a family, taken in when I had nothing, now I know people believe in me”
Here’s to the next young person. That they too might discover the significant of belonging to a family.
If we are to continue to make an impact on the crises of youth mental health, we need more young people to discover what this teen found. The necessity of belonging to a caring, small group community, where you are known. Only then will we see the tide of statistics that represent the pain of young people start to turn.