The Daniel Memorial Reunion by Judiece Oliphant

As my plane landed in Denver International Airport, I knew my short time there would be unforgettable. After unloading the plane, my coworkers and I grabbed our bags from the baggage claim and where off to the Sheraton Hotel where the Daniel Memorial Conference was to be held. While leaving the airport, I could see Denver’s breathtaking skyline. Green fields met the mountains and the mountains sat against the clear sky. It was like a beautiful welcome into the city.

The evening I arrived, was the evening of the dessert social. Not only was I excited to try different desserts, I was excited to see the other young people attending the conference. Some of whom I knew, but many where new faces. It was like a family reunion. To me, we were all family in a way because we all had one thing in common; foster care.

I woke up bright and early the following day ready to learn and grow professionally and personally. The general session was presented by Jimmy Wayne, a singer/ songwriter who was in and out of foster care growing up. His story was inspiring and encouraged me to take advantage of the positive opportunities life will present. From that point on, the conference was off to great start and I was determined to do just that.

There are three major highlights of my time in Denver. The first being a workshop about the importance of well-being for young people aging out of care. I learned that a balance of positive social development, good mental and physical health, economic success, good intellectual growth and healthy permanent connections are all essential to a young person’s success, aging out of care. We often hear saddening statistics like how only 48% of young people who age out of care are employed, 45% of females have been pregnant, less than 50% of young people have a bank account and more than 37% have been homeless or couched-surfed. But perhaps if there is a focus on a young person’s well-being entirely, these outcomes can be different.

Secondly, I attending a workshop entitled Healing Ourselves While Healing Others. This workshop was especially helpful in my personal life. I learned about cultivating internal resources so that I can thrive in helping others. I also gained an understanding about codependency and anti-dependence and learning how to care for myself and others in a more skillful, interdependent manner. This workshop was amazing!

To put the icing on the cake, I took a trip to the Denver Aquarium with the young people and social workers from the county I grew up in. I enjoyed spending time with the young people; getting to know them and sharing the little bit of knowledge I have about this big world we live in. I was able to catch up with some of the social workers who helped contribute to my success today and who were outstanding mentors during my time in care. They we all very encouraging and I felt good that I made them proud.

Overall, each time I've attended a Daniel Memorial Conference, there has been one thing that remains the same; the joy of being around other young people just like me. I would not trade my experiences at the Daniel Memorial Conference for anything in the world and to anyone reading this, I would like to encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

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