Monday, August 20, 2012

Our Philly Fellow's Continuing Story

Abi continues getting to know NAC

This is the beginning of my second week, but it feels like I’ve been here a little longer than that. My first week here (last week) I spent learning about the context of the work NAC does. The majority of the first day I worked on the online course “Foster Family to Forever Family,” which explains the foster-to-adoption process to individuals/families considering adoption. Through the course, I became familiar with basic adoption terminology, the legal steps required to adopt a child, ways of responding to some challenges unique to foster/adoptive children and families (e.g., determining what level of interaction is appropriate for the child(ren) to maintain with birthparents), and how the relationship between older adopted child and their adoptive parents/families is a special kind of a relationship.  

To be honest, the first few days were quite emotional for me as I read some of the success stories on file and thought about how trying it is for older children seeking permanent homes. As someone who has been with my birth family from day one, I could not imagine the difficult road that had led some of the kids to foster care in the first place, and how they could manage to keep hope alive when dealing with the uncertainty of their living situation on top of the ordinary challenges one faces as a child growing up and trying to process the world. How does one recover from this kind of experience? Can one speak of “recovery” at all? Anyway, these are questions that I’m sure I will revisit as I continue on at NAC.

The first day also marked the end of a long period of anticipating what the office would be like. I didn’t know if it would be too quiet, too noisy, the staff interactive or consumed with their own work, the room too cold…Right off the bat I read that this is a comfortable and inviting place. (FYI The noise level has generally been fine, but the temperature can be rather cold though it is better than the first two days.) The staff members are also very approachable. Last, I was able to speak to about half of them individually to learn about what their specific roles are, how and when they got started at the organization, and new developments/future directions of NAC. 

I was actually most nervous the second day here because I had gotten quite a bit of information on NAC by that point but was not sure how to organize it mentally. And although I know most non-profits can always benefit from more helping hands, I didn’t know what I could offer to NAC. Yet, once I started to read some documents about NAC and talk to staff, the picture of what the organization does became more coherent and the needs of the organization more clear. In addition to the projects that my supervisor, Alex, spelled out for me, I was able to identify some other areas where I think I can be helpful. 

I look forward to getting involved in projects in different areas so that I can learn more about the inner workings of NAC, and know all that I need to know to do the best I can help it reach some of its goals. Working here also provides the opportunity to learn about how a non-profit is sustained and its services kept relevant in an increasingly competitive market, which will be useful if I continue non-profit work in the future. NAC is at a critical period in its history where it is trying both not only to expand its offerings but to carve out a more distinctive space for itself in the foster-to-adoption sector, and I am excited to assist the organization, in whatever way I can, to move forward in realizing this vision.

As for me, I hope to be a valuable team member at NAC. A successful year for me would be one in which I play a significant role in helping the organization build capacity and expand/strengthen its service provision. I also hope to generally learn something new each day I’m here, and use what I learn to inform my future studies and career pursuits. 

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