The Get Real group is a supportive gathering for teens in foster care that provides a safe place to share experiences and explore feelings about foster care and adoption. The group is co-led by Donikea Austin, Youth Services Coordinator, and an adult volunteer who experienced foster care as a child and can share personal challenges and accomplishments with the teens.
Get Real provides a great opportunity for teens to listen to others, to talk about their own experiences of foster care and to share their hopes for the future in a safe and supportive environment. Each month, there is a topic for the discussions and activities. The conversation also covers the important things going on in their lives: the trials and tribulations of high school, new boyfriends or girlfriends, friends, fights, relationships with foster parents, relationships with birthparents, college applications, jobs…the list goes on. The beauty of these groups is that they are a safe place for participants to come with no judgement and to be themselves.
“These groups are always so fun because you never know what the teens are going to bring to the table. Our discussions are always lively,” says Donikea.
I had the pleasure of attending February’s group: Love you, Like you (Relationships & Boundaries) just in time for Valentine’s Day. Both the boy’s and girl’s groups gave their own essence of personality as the teens navigated our conversation of what it is like to experience their relationships, prospective college opportunities and manage their jobs. As we did the carefully planned activities such as a Create Your Ideal Mate match game, Healthy Relationship Bingo and shared a meal together, we had conversations of what it means to be in a safe relationship and what was important to them to have in their ideal partner. Through our conversations, it was great to see that the teens had strong convictions on what they did and did not consider acceptable in their interactions with peers and a potential partner.
This group’s dynamic brings a unique opportunity for youth in the care of the foster care system. Truly, Get Real is a safe and constructive place to meet new people, share a meal and enjoy dynamic conversation. Each month centers around a different topic, as well as organic conversation brought to the table by the teens. A calendar of topics can be found here.
For those seeking to join the group, eligible teens are 14+ and are in permanent custody of the child welfare system of any Ohio county. Referrals can be made to Donikea Austin at Donikea.Austin@adoption.network.org or (216) 482-2334.
Evan Caroline Clark is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at Adoption Network Cleveland.