“Growing up in a group home, and with an undiagnosed learning disability to boot, the odds of success were not on my side. But when I joined the high school football team, I learned the value of discipline, focus, persistence, and teamwork – all skills that have proven vital to my career as a C.E.O. and social entrepreneur. “ ~ Darel Hammond
Working in the foster care field for 25 years (and specifically being the Executive Director of a foster family agency for the last 16 years), I have been and always will be committed to the experiences foster children and youth have within my reach. I recently have had two experiences of meeting great young men who grew up in foster care and clearly stated their experiences were horrible. One young man I met in Las Vegas recently, standing in line waiting with my daughter because she was auditioning for the voice (she did not make it). I do not believe it was a coincidence that the young man next to me grew up in foster care in Boston. He talked about how the foster parents were horrible to him and a social worker never came and checked on him, how he got into drugs and crime. He then found God and changed his life around and no he did not make The Voice either, but he was not discouraged. We talked about Mountain Circle and what I could do to ensure that foster children and youth walking through our doors only have a positive and healthy experience.
It would break my heart if I ever had a young person approach me and say, “Look, that home was horrible.” He talked about the social workers being involved with the kids and families.
My other recent experience was having the joy of interviewing another young man from England who had spent the last seven years of his life in foster care. His father has passed away and the step-mother was not able to take care of him. He flat out stated it was horrible and mirrored the same comments as the young man above. His path was somewhat different, and he knew school was his way out. He has recently just graduated with his Masters in Social Work! As I was interviewing him for a position with Mountain Circle, I asked him (because he would have to move from England to California), “Are you leaving any family?” He pretty much said, “I do not have family.” This broke my heart too. I said, “Well, welcome to the Running with the Bears / Mountain Circle Family.”
(Running with the Bears is the annual fundraiser for Mountain Circle. Watch this short video about how these special runners are making a difference!)
I push my staff with high expectations from them and the foster (now called Resource) families to go above and beyond the call of duty for this very reason. Mountain Circle just recently decertified 11 families, which was a big detriment to our business model, resulting in laying off staff, but because bottom line, we are committed to children and youth always receiving the highest quality of care. It hurts my heart the long hours that my staff put in to meet my expectations and trust me they do not get paid enough, but the bottom line, again, we are here for a mission, a calling—to change the life of a child/youth.
Mountain Circle is coming up on our 12th annual PowderQuest ski/snowboarding trip, which is crazy to me! This trip is funded specifically by all of our Running with the Bears runners. This trip serves about 25 foster youth an all-expense-paid ski/snowboarding weekend at Sugar Bowl for two days.
I started this trip just to teach youth to ski, but it has become so much more than this. It is a coming home, a reunion for all the youth from the last 12 years. Lalo was only 14 when I started it, he is now 26, has two adorable kids and his AA degree. This trip specifically turned his life around. We have another young man, Daniel, was 12 when he first joined us, and now will be turning 21 by ski day.
He is so excited that he can have a beer with me on the trip this year! Daniel also runs our Nu 2 U thrift store in Susanville, CA. And I have many more stories like this which are connected to the PowderQuest Program.
What is my point to all of this? Just this: Mountain Circle is committed to quality experiences for foster children and youth. Not only from long days from the social work staff, Seth, Tawney, Curtis, Anna, Alisha, Nicholas, and our new Social Worker Rachelle, to the dedicated foster families we find, value, adore, and so deeply appreciate. This gratitude is extended to the Running with the Bears family—to all those runners we have gotten to know over the last few years; who spend a whole year fundraising and then crazily go run 26.2, 13.1, or 6.2 miles for us! We should be paying you! From the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank you enough for going the extra mile to ensure a child or youth never walks our way to say, “That was a horrible experience.”
Change a young life forever, become a Resource (foster) Parent with Mountain Circle Family Services!
Questions about fostering, adoption, or becoming a host home where you live? Contact our local office!
Mountain Circle’s Chico Foster Care and Adoption Office:
Mountain Circle’s Greenville Foster Care and Adoption Office:
Mountain Circle’s Susanville Foster Care and Adoption Office:
Mountain Circle’s Nevada Foster Care Office: