Foster youth know better than most that not all family is biological.

“Chosen” is a new exhibit being developed by the Foster Youth Museum.

It is a celebration and a public record of the life experience that belongs to many foster youth and former foster youth, the desire for being a part of a “family” not constituted through “blood” but through the process of choosing those who will be a part of one’s family.

This is obviously not like the experience of choosing a team in elementary school where everyone lines up against a wall and two captains choose who they want on their team. No, this is a mutual process, where people who have no biological family connections build relationships over the course of time and find a developing support, a place of belonging, a community in which they can be themselves, find safety, and hear that they matter and are loved. Family.

So, over time these individuals evolve within relationships and all parties come to a mutual decision to enter into an intentional and named community or family.

This is the experience that the Foster Youth Museum wants the world to begin to understand: that for many of us, and most particularly foster youth, a family can be the result of the profound and significant act of being “chosen” and getting to “choose.”

Recently, in talking about the upcoming exhibit with one of Braid’s facilitators, this particular facilitator wondered if a good illustration for the exhibition could be found in the story of “The Wizard of Oz.”

After all, it is a story about a girl traumatically separated from her family and placed in a foreign land with strangers. Along the journey she finds relationship with others who are lost or have been forgotten or have been dismissed as hopeless. And as they journey together they enter into those experiences which lead to a deeper relationship, and over time they chose to be a family to and with each other.

Dorothy, our lost child who finds family along the way, the Lion who finds his courage in their journey, the Tin Man who finds love, and the Scarecrow who finds Wisdom in this “family” eventually come to the end of their great journey and they need to separate from each other.

But, this separation is physical, not emotional. There is no indication that they stop being a family. Instead, they acknowledge what they learned from each other and how they found self and each other in the journey to becoming a family. And they choose to stay together across time and space. The bonds that hold them together are too strong to separate them.

The exhibit of The Foster Youth Museum invites us to consider that great human need to be and live in community with those with whom we feel a deep primal bond.

While the mechanics of Braid do not afford these initial “choosings” as Rebecca and I pair members of teams with a youth, all being strangers to each other, we have come to appreciate that over time, as you journey together there is often a deepening of bonds and that somewhere along the road there is a choice, a choice to belong to the team and a choice to belong to the youth. I am not claiming that this is a “family,” and yet there is certainly likely to be some similarity for your youth who over time learns to trust and care and feel loved and as though they matter to three adults.

And you may just provide your youth with courage and wisdom and heart as you follow your path.

You are the gift!

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