Shared Joys

We know that lasting relationships are vital for children to thrive, but sometimes we forget. Sometimes we think we can take shortcuts. We think that children need only a little of our time or that we can give them just enough to get by.

Sometimes we forget that children need to be loved with every ounce of our hearts and souls. This story offers a lovely window into the difference a stable relationship can make in the lives of a foster child and the adults who come to love her.

If you didn’t see this article in Sunday’s New York Times, I hope you will take time to read it now.

At the age of seventeen, transgendered Christina lands on the couch of Cris, one of her former teachers. She had been taken with Christina’s intelligence and fierceness, discovers a ferocity in herself as she moves in to protect this child from a child welfare system that is unable to protect and care for her. Thirteen years later, they are off to celebrate Christina’s birthday, in the tradition of the “messy family” that they have made together.


Photo courtesy of lanier67

Sadly, the stories of many of the adolescents in foster care don’t end so happily, nor do they always end well for the adults who reach out to try to give them the support of a positive relationship. But, as they did for Christina and Cris, sometimes when people really believe in the power of unconditional love and care, things do turn out well.

Their story reminds us that lasting, positive relationships help to heal the trauma that hides in the dark corners of our minds and propel us into the light of shared joys.

Toni Heineman is a clinical social worker and psychologist, and is the founder and executive director of A Home Within.

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Toni Heineman
About Toni Heineman 15 Articles
I am licensed as a Clinical Social Worker and Clinical Psychologist and serve on the Clinical Faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF. I am the founder and Executive Director of A Home Within, and the author of numerous articles on identifying and meeting the emotional needs of children, youth, and young adults in foster care.