This summer, Alex Lynds ’15 has a Strong/Gault Social Advancement Internship Grant from Bowdoin College’s funded internships program to work with Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine. The nonprofit is based in Old Town, Maine, close to Lynds’ hometown of Hermon, and serves “the families of one of Maine’s most underserved populations: children whose biological parents are unable to raise them,” Lynds says.
Lynds recently answered a few questions about her internship.
Bowdoin Daily Sun: What does the organization do?
Alex Lynds: AFFM is truly a lifeline for many adoptive, foster, and kinship families. Kinship families, extended family members raising children without any compensation, are often especially unprepared for the transition to raising a child. Support groups, advice and information, discount cards, and donated clothing and bedding are all available to these families, courtesy of AFFM. Additionally, the organization runs a lending library and works with many summer camps to send as many foster and adopted children as possible to a free summer camp. AFFM also does public outreach, holding yearly conferences and talking to students in schools.
BDS: What are you doing in your internship?
AL: My daily duties at the office vary greatly from day to day. One day I’ll be organizing the library and calling law offices, (trying to find a lawyer to represent one of our families pro bono), and the next day, I’m researching the pros and cons of starting an online support group and assisting families that call our office. One larger project that I have completed already was a review of DHHS case files for a volunteer organization called the Citizen Review Panel, in which I examined whether DHHS was following its policies concerning the medical treatment of children in care. A project that I am looking forward to is the task of designing and sending out a survey on fetal alcohol exposure and the resources that children in care may or may not have available to them.
BDS: Can you describe your working environment and the people you work with?
AL: I work in a slightly unconventional office, as AFFM is both an office, and a library and donation storage area. There’s a lot going on in this small space! I work alongside the director, the foster and adoptive specialist, the kinship specialist, the training coordinator, and the administrative assistant. Though each person’s role in the organization is different, it is a collaborative environment with many tasks that everyone takes part in.
BDS: What’s been your most moving and your most challenging experiences so far?
AL: My most moving experience so far was when I represented AFFM at the YLAT Annual Teen Conference at the University of Maine for teenage foster kids. I had a chance to get to know some of the teens that AFFM works to support and it was really inspiring. Some of the teens I met had been through so much, it really motivated me to do what I can to help.
The most challenging experience for me was when I was reviewing case files of children in care for the Citizen Review Panel; I read about some really horrific abuse. I had one case that was so incredibly disturbing that I had to walk away from the documents and find something trivial to work on for the rest of the afternoon because I couldn’t take any more that day. Working in this field does a lot of good for kids that really need it, but you encounter some truly heartbreaking stories along the way.
BDS: How does this experience fit into your future aspirations?
AL: This internship is a great experience for me because it’s teaching me a lot about psychology-related careers. I am interested in pursuing a career working with women with post-partum depression, and I believe that much of what I am currently learning, such as strategies for combatting compassion fatigue and understanding how Child Protective Services operates, will be useful for me later on.