Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Aww Shift

Nov 28, 2023

On today’s episode, our guest is Susan Ramirez. As a board member of National Angels and a former foster kid myself, I understand the vital role of support and relationships in a child's life. Susan, with her unique journey, entered this world and became an 'angel,' aiming to rescue kids from the challenges of foster care. In this episode, we'll delve into her story and the impactful work of National Angels. Listen not only to learn about the organization but also to discover how you can contribute and make a difference. Not everyone can foster a kid, but everyone can help a foster kid. Without further ado, let's dive into the episode.

[2:30] Why should I listen to you? 

I would say that you would probably start listening quickly due to our shared experiences. We could instantly bond over our strong belief in human potential. We both deeply believe that children should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, and I think we can connect quickly by discussing that.

[5:35] Could you take us back to those pivotal moments when you were first introduced to the world of foster care?

For me, Anthony, it was a turning point. Eight years in corporate America left me without a life vision. Selling homes was my job, and while I always thought adoption would play a role in my life, foster care wasn't on my radar until I attended a foster and adoption conference. Invited by a woman, I hesitated but attended a foster care session. The judge's stories about two boys with 22 and 23 placements, psychotropic meds, and traumas left a profound impact. One excelled despite challenges, while the other tragically took his life at 18. This experience changed my perspective and marked a crucial moment in my life. I had never volunteered and had a narrow viewpoint. The judge's words on hope and redemption at 18 resonated deeply. Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone can make a difference. I left the conference with a commitment to change the foster care experience. Witnessing individuals like you, Anthony, who overcome challenges, fuels my passion. Talent is universal, but opportunity is not, and your dedication to family and community reinforces the urgency to improve the foster care system. Currently, 400,000 kids face a system with bleak outcomes, and leaving that conference, I was determined to change this narrative, embarking on a path to make a difference.

[14:44] Where do you perceive the most significant benefits for kids who have experienced foster care and received assistance to overcome these challenges?

Well, I think a couple of things that you're saying, Anthony, are really important mental models for people to consider. One crucial perspective we emphasize is the language we use. Instead of saying "foster kid," we prefer "children experiencing foster care" because it should not define their identity; it's an experience, not who they are. Early on, during an awareness campaign using the term "foster kid," a young woman, an alumna, approached me. She expressed that no child wants to be associated with this label, emphasizing the negative connotations. In my interactions with teenagers in our program every other Saturday, I focus on speaking life and truth over them. Many of these young people are on the verge of aging out and entering adulthood. I convey to them that they are more equipped to handle life's challenges than some who've had everything handed to them. Their mastery in navigating challenges and the emotional fortitude they possess make them resilient individuals. I encourage these young individuals to view their experiences as opportunities to become more resilient, which, in turn, will shape them into tougher, more equipped adults ready to face life's challenges head-on.

[24:20]  In the realm of National Angels, what specific initiatives or strategies have you firmly established as the core of your efforts for these kids? When someone hears the term "National Angels," what should come to mind as the impactful work you're actively engaged in for these children?

Firstly, if you're drawn to adopting or fostering, that's wonderful. Yet, what sets our program apart is its inclusivity, embracing those who say, "While fostering may not be my calling, I want to care for kids in my community." Reflecting on when I launched the program nationwide, I recall Jonathan, a seventh-grader in a challenging situation under foster mom Esther. Approaching Esther, who fostered six tough teenage boys, I offered support through our program. Despite initial skepticism, I persisted, especially with Jonathan. For seven months, I consistently showed him love and encouragement. Back-to-school time brought new backpacks and supplies for each boy. Understanding Jonathan's dream of making the football team, we supported him academically and spiritually. Despite his initial self-doubt, he not only made straight A's but also secured a spot on the football team. This affirmed my belief in the importance of every child having a supportive adult. Witnessing Jonathan's transformation from withdrawn to confident underscored the impact of consistent support.

In another case, a boy named Ryan, born to a mother with mental illness and drug abuse, had a different yet equally impactful experience. On his birthday, he called me with gratitude for the first celebration. Esther later highlighted the significance of a child feeling loved and the transformative power of a young person giving love. The message here is clear: not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone can make a difference by walking alongside a child experiencing foster care, and understanding their unique qualities. Consistency is key, and your involvement can make all the difference. Don't be afraid to give your heart, whether or not you feel called to foster; there's a place for everyone to positively impact a child's life.

[24:20] In the realm of National Angels, what specific initiatives or strategies have you firmly established as the core of your efforts for these kids? When someone hears the term "National Angels," what should come to mind as the impactful work you're actively engaged in for these children?

So, we have two main programs—The Love Box and Dare to Dream. The Love Box offers comprehensive support for families fostering children. Earlier, I mentioned Esther, a single foster mom raising six teenage boys. In this program, I and a group of friends provide wraparound community support for foster families. We focus on intentional giving, identifying home needs, building relationships, and offering mentorship. National statistics suggest that 50% of foster families close their homes within the first year. However, our program has shown a different outcome. Our goal is to prevent children from moving between multiple foster homes. If they are placed in a foster home through our program, we aim to ensure stability and prevent frequent moves.

The second program, Dare to Dream, is a one-on-one mentorship initiative. In this program, mentors guide mentees through achieving 10 developmental milestones. When a child turns 16, the mentor assists with tasks like obtaining a driver's license, opening a bank account, providing financial literacy education, and offering support for college preparation or transitioning into adulthood. So, individuals can choose to participate in either program based on whether they feel inclined to support a family or an individual child in a mentorship capacity.

[26:40] In the one-on-one mentorship aspect, can someone simply come in and become a mentor? If so, is that a way for people to contribute their time if they can't foster but still want to make a meaningful impact? 

Certainly! If you're interested, visit to find the nearest chapter. On the website, follow the steps to get involved in our programs. After filling out an online form, a case manager will call for a deep discovery conversation to understand your interests and strengths. We use an algorithm to match mentors and mentees.

Self-efficacy is crucial, letting kids make their own decisions. In the Dare to Dream Program, mentors commit to a minimum of one year, aiming for relational permanence. We match people in the same zip code for convenience. Relational permanence is key, and we have many success stories like Abel, who, with a mentor's guidance, transformed his life and is now pursuing his dreams at college. Relationships have the power to change lives profoundly.

[31:50] In what ways can individuals support your efforts to enhance, expand, or reach a greater number of children?

I am incredibly passionate about our mission to reach and serve every child. Our goal is ambitious: by 2050, we aim to have every child, youth, and family in our program. If you're compelled to get involved, consider making a contribution to our organization at Financial support is crucial for reaching and serving more kids. I also encourage you to follow us on social media and get involved locally by finding a chapter nearest to you. Together, we can make a meaningful impact on the lives of children and families.

[35:07] What promise did God make to the world when he created you? 

I vividly recall our conversation in 2018 when you asked me this powerful question. It struck me deeply, making me realize the profound impact of such a commitment. Believing in God's promise to the world, my model is to do everything within my power, despite my flaws and challenges, to reach and serve every single child. The promise is a dedication to continually strive, overcoming any obstacle to transform the world for the better. There's no mountain too high, no valley too low that I won't try to conquer to reach one more child. I hope my boys grow up witnessing their mother's unwavering passion and determination, never giving up on making a difference.

Key Quotes 

[10:00-10:06] Not everyone is called to foster or adopt but everyone can make a difference in a child’s life.

[11:42-11:45] Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

How to connect with Susan Ramirez