A Story About a Roof

We had the pleasure of being involved in the construction of a roof for a mom while caring for her daughter a couple of years ago. This little one was a grandchild of the state of Illinois. At the age of 21, however, her mom had been emancipated. What would seem like a wonderful freedom can often be a very frightening thing. She was one month away from obtaining her high school diploma. The daycare that she had been given through the state, in order to pursue her degree, was no longer available. Her counselor told her about Safe Families for Children and she figured that was her only choice.

She took the risk.

With my own three teenage daughters, the most sensible way for me to support this tenacious mom would be through her daughter. She would be the glue that would bring us together as construction on a roof began.

For a bit of context, here are some daunting foster care statistics from last year:

  • After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
  • Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
  • There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
  • 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.

These vulnerable kids are in desperate need for roofs as they attempt to bear some of the storms and brutal heat that comes their way, often on their own.

Our family would care for her daughter during the week. On the weekends, they would be reunited. When I discovered that mom was staying with a friend over an hour away, I decided that it would be best to meet halfway for transfers. After waiting for her for two hours downtown, I soon learned how difficult it is for someone without a car to get to a train station that is 20 minutes away. Then, to time that with the next train that she needed to switch to in order to arrive at her destination.

Safe Families School: Lesson 412 –

I learned about flexibility, allowing interruptions, building margin, going with the flow and NEVER JUDGING SOMEONE UNTIL YOU’VE WALKED IN THEIR SHOES.

A good friend of mine (who I used to get frustrated with when she was late), recently enlightened me to the idea that she didn’t think she mattered enough for anyone to care that she was late. Had I known this perspective while growing up and while doing this thing called Safe Families, I hope that I would have extended a lot more grace. Especially for someone who had lived in multiple homes and group homes all their life and more than likely had this same perspective. I had never thought about that before.

I needed new eyes.

Eventually, I drove the little one to her mom and dropped her off once I realized the hoops mom had to go through to get to the halfway point. (And, kinda because I didn’t want to wait.) After the month of hosting, I was honored to receive an invite to her graduation and witness her defying the statistics along with her daughter. We were the only ones there supporting her. It was worth every minute and mile to be her cheerleaders!

…Love is a roof. It’s not a door or a gate that keeps certain ones in and others out. It just covers. I think this is why I had gut rot as I drove away. We had shared pieces of ourselves with each other over the past several weeks, and were now part of one another as co-suffering communities. I had left a new part of me outside. One person at a time. One shingle at a time. When we start building co-suffering communities, there are more roofs, and less lashing by brutal storms and the heat that comes our way.

(This is an excerpt from the blog, Mercy Overflowing. You can read the entire post here.)

by Kimi Ottaviano

Kimi has been a part of Safe Families for Children years serving in various roles including Host Family, Family Coach, and so much more. 


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