From Living on the Street to Leading: A Flawless Hero Gives Back

One of the most rewarding aspects of our work at the Flawless Foundation is the opportunity to connect with incredible organizations and the dedicated individuals who lead and work for them. I’m continually impressed by the impact that these groups make in their communities and by the creativity of their work. It’s also inspiring to be reminded that, though our particular approaches may differ, we are all working toward a common goal.

A few years ago, I served on the board of ChristieCare, which was one of Oregon’s largest providers of services to children and families coping with significant mental health challenges. Through my work on a board committee I met Andrew Grover. An executive team member at the time, he has since become the Executive Director of Youth Villages Oregon, the organization that merged with ChristieCare in 2011. Youth Villages is a nationwide nonprofit, active in 12 states and Washington DC, whose mission is to help children and families live successfully. While I got to know Andrew quite well through our work together, I never knew the deeply personal story behind his calling to this profession until we attended his organization’s annual breakfast in Oregon last month.

This year’s breakfast was titled “A Day to Soar,” and was a celebration of the work of Youth Villages Oregon in helping at-risk youth in the state. Andrew set the inspirational tone, telling his personal story of a childhood filled with challenging family and home dynamics that eventually led to him living on the streets. We often keep personal histories like these to ourselves, especially if they involve painful memories. But our stories are powerful. Andrew’s reveals what can happen when a child slips through the cracks in the system. It’s also an inspiring example of how we can transform difficult experiences into motivation to make a positive difference, and his story reminded me that we are all in this life journey together.

Youth Villages exemplifies the power of a model that couples prevention with treatment. Through their Intercept Program, they help stabilize families that are struggling to stay together in order to prevent children from being removed from their families. In Oregon, Youth Villages works with a wide variety of families and has a growing focus on helping adoptive families stay together safely and successfully. Youth Villages shares our commitment to both Collaborative Problem Solving and Trauma Informed Care, and most of their staff is trained in these evidence-based models of care. With these tools, they can help adoptive families develop strategies to build resilience, enhance healthy attachments, and sustain positive family functioning.

We left the Youth Villages event with a renewed sense of gratitude for our colleagues who are leaders in this work. Dr. Fadi Haddad, a child psychiatrist and adoption expert, has emphasized the universality of children’s desire to be loved and supported. Dr. Haddad’s experiences volunteering with orphanages in impoverished countries has reinforced his belief that “no matter who they are or what their circumstance, all children want to be happy and all caregivers want the children in their care to be healthy, safe and happy." As we come to the end of National Adoption Month, we take a moment to honor Youth Villages’ dedication to this principle and their commitment to ensuring that all youth have the support and love they deserve.

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