by Natalie Goodnow, LSA Summer Fellow
My whole life I’ve been encouraged towards public service. “Always strive to be useful,” my mother told me growing up. “Ask what you can do,” urges my graduate school. Be “in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations,” my undergraduate institution charged students. Three years ago, when I graduated from college, I realized my vocation was public service, but I didn’t know yet in what capacity. Public service can take on a myriad of forms. Now, halfway through my master’s program in public policy, I find myself a neighbor to the Supreme Court in the LSA office. My passion, I have discovered, is for children and families, and what better place to serve and support them than LSA?
When I first spoke with Alesia Frerichs, VP of Member Engagement for LSA, and discussed in-depth the services and mission of LSA, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The faith foundation of the organization particularly appealed to me, as my faith plays a large role in my work. The opportunity to tackle the challenges facing foster youth who were at risk of aging out of the system -- the LSA project I would be joining -- was incredible.
My own family history is intertwined with the foster care system: my grandmother and great aunt were foster children in Alaska before it became a state. Though they were taken in and raised by missionaries, their older brother – who was also in the orphanage with them – was not. He eventually aged out of the system to the streets, eventually lying about his age to enter the military. While things have improved since then, there is still a long way left to go on the support structures for foster youth. And LSA is doing meaningful work in this area.
Over the next ten months, I will be working with the Provider Exchange Learning Cohort as LSA members strive to expand and improve their services for foster youth transitioning into adulthood. Their aim is for the youth in their care to achieve permanency before they age out of the system, whether through re-unification with their family or a positive lifelong connection with an adult. At the end of the project, I will produce a white paper on the cohort’s learnings. Even though I have only been here a few weeks, the LSA staff have quickly made me at home with the warmest of welcomes and trusted me with valuable work. It is a privilege and blessing to be invited into such a special community and be a part of such an amazing endeavor, and for that I am truly grateful.
Natalie is pursuing a Master's in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She will complete her Master's program in spring 2017, and holds a Bachelor's Degree from Princeton University. She is the recipient of the Pforzheimer Foundation Nonprofit Fellowship and Associate Editor of the Kennedy School Review.
With more than 100 LSA members serving children, youth and families in 33 states across the country, the LSA network has a dominant national child welfare presence. LSA members provide a broad range of services ranging from foster care and adoption to counseling, housing, health care, mental health care, early childhood education, charter schools, alternatives to detention, Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) foster care programs, and programs for youth aging out of foster care. The LSA Children Youth and Family (CYF) Community of Practice comes together to learn from and with each other to transform the well-being of vulnerable youth and their families by continuing to improve current care practices, develop new and innovative solutions, and encourage practitioner informed policy decisions. To learn more, please visit: http://lutheranservices.org/cyf