What is being a GAL? For me being a GAL is helping a 10 year old get adopted. When agencies, schools and foster parents tell me that she is not going to be able to be adopted because she is too old or her behavior is horrible, or she fights too much, that is when I advocate harder. When my 10 year old came to me she was struggling in school with grades and fighting, she had lived in 5 different homes, her grandma committed suicide in front of her and she was struggling with emotional stability. That is just the surface of what she was struggling with. All of this was no fault of her own. I saw struggle, sadness, uncertainty, pain and confusion. I started meeting with her and just playing. Playing games, searching for shells on the beach, eating Chinese food, singing at the top of our lungs to the radio, and just forgetting about the world around her. Just be free for a couple hours. She started to open up to me and tell me that she wants a family, she wants friends and she is tired of fighting. I gained her trust and she felt comfortable with me. She knew I would always show up, at least once a month. As her GAL I would not stop showing up.
So one day I picked her up from school and she asked me why I was there to pick her up and where we were going. What she didn’t know what that behind the scenes I had been working with my team to find her a family, find her a mom and find her a home. PERMANENT home. That is the goal of the GAL program, to find each child a permanent, safe home.
I won’t leave you, we are a team and we will do this together. I will be right next to you.
So I asked her if she wanted to meet a lady that might possibly be her mom one day. She was so excited that she just yelled YES from the back seat and then sat there in silence for a couple seconds. As it suddenly sank in she started to tear up. “Miss Nicole, are you for real? Is this real? Are you kidding me or are you serious? Will she like me? Wait, does she know me? Did my foster mom tell her how horrible I really am? Does she know how bad I am? Wait, don’t tell her, don’t tell her what type of kid I am Nicole, not yet, let me just meet her so I can just see her once before she finds out. When? When do I get to meet her? Are you coming with me? Wait, you’re not leaving me right? Will you come with me?”
When she stopped to breathe I turned around in my seat and looked into her eyes and said, “You are not a bad kid, you are an amazing kid, and yes she knows all about you and that is why she wanted to meet you. She is excited to meet you. I won’t leave you, we are a team and we will do this together. I will be right next to you.”
She sat back in her seat and she looked out the window and we drove to the meeting area. When she got out of the car she grabbed my hand hard and walked very close to me. I was reassuring her that I was right there and that we were going to have fun and that we were in this together. She was so brave, I could not imagine being in her position. When we walked into the building they saw each other from across the bowling lanes. They both smiled and she grabbed my hand harder. Their eyes didn’t leave each other as we walked closer to each other. They said hello and they kept just looking at each other. It was an amazing thing to witness. That was the first day of the rest of their lives. Her adoptive mom was a single lady who has wanted children for a very long time.
It ended up as a successful story. She was adopted and she is doing well in school and at home. They have 3 dogs and a big house with a fun yard. She has lots of friends and play dates. She is getting involved in extracurricular activities and having fun in summer camps. Her Christmases and Birthdays are beyond wonderful and they have traveled to Puerto Rico for vacation for 2 weeks. This is GAL. This is meaning. This is making a difference. I am proud to be a GAL.