Fixing Cars Can Help Fix YouthPosted 08/13/2004
By Craig and Deb Van Batenburg, AAMs
At last year's Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) convention, we included a slide in our presentation that spoke about the plight of American foster children.
First, the chilling numbers: More than 500,000 American kids have been removed from their homes for their own safety. About 130,000 have either gone through, or are undergoing, a process where they can be legally adopted. In other words, they need a new and "forever" family. More than 25,000 of these kids will never get adopted and will age out of the foster care system at 18 without ever being attached to a family of their own. That means 25,000 American kids (per year) will not have a family with which to share vacations, holidays or birthdays.
Those are the facts, as sad as they are. Each year, it gets worse. But you can help.
When we found out in 1992 that we could not conceive our own children, we were sad, mad, frustrated and lost. After some real soul-searching and an education into all types of adoption, it was clear to us that there were kids in our area who really needed parents, a home, love, family, discipline and a future. We didn't need to go outside the United States to help a child find a home - there were plenty right here.
At the same time we were building the Massachusetts ASA affiliate, we were also preparing a home for what would be two foster adoptions. Mike was first at age 5. We took him in as our own, adopted him and started to build our family. Will was next at age 15. Now the boys are 19 and 13. We're doing well after some rough times, but it was more than worth it. We didn't need baby pictures; we just wanted to be parents. We knew we could do a good job.
At Van Batenburg's Garage, Mike and Will helped with cleanup and trash, worked on company vehicles and did some computer work. Recently, Mike started to help work on a 1989 Prelude that will be his in the future. Will has his driver's license, so a car for him is in the makings too. Working with our sons added more than just a cleaner shop. It helped them learn and develop skills they will need to succeed in the real world, which is a not-so-nice place at times. Both of my sons know how tough the world can be and learned at much too young of an age. What they need now is survival and success skills. Fixing cars can do that.
If you are employing young people, you may be familiar with some bad behaviors. You already know what to do to keep young people in line. Why not learn more about the foster teenagers who live in your hometown, visit with them and offer them a job, a future and maybe even a home. There is more to life than work. Why not make your career a place for foster kids too?
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