Today’s post is based on an interview with Victor Sims, an active advocate for children in foster care. Victor works as a case manager supervisor at SailFuture, won a 2020 Casey Excellence for Children Award, and is an American Bar Association Reunification Hero.
Please introduce yourself and your work for our blog readers.
My name is Victor Sims. I’ve lived in Florida my whole life, primarily in Polk County. I have been a child welfare advocate since I was 16 years old. I have done a lot [to push] for the Every Student Succeeds Act because of my lack of educational stability when I was in care. I currently work as a case manager supervisor for the teen division program at SailFuture. I work with kids who have both behavioral and mental health challenges that a lot of people are not able to meet.
What positive childhood experiences helped you overcome adversity?
Growing up, I thought what I needed was a home. But when I got adopted, and as I got older, what I realized I needed was someone who was willing to build a strong relationship with me. I needed someone that was going to tell me at night, “It’s ok that you made a mistake today, we’re going to get up tomorrow, and you can still be a good person.” I use it on my job with our kids. When we first started off as an agency, we rewarded kids for doing everyday tasks. I was the one who believed, you’re not getting a star, you’re just a good person. I would tell them that all the time. You’re just a good person, that’s why you did it. You don’t need an award to be a good human being.
Look at the kids I serve, the teenagers who have behavioral health challenges. A lot of them have Department of Juvenile Justice [DJJ] interventions. No one has told them that they’re a good person. What, they’ve stolen a car? They pulled a knife on their father? All they are now is a criminal in everybody’s eyes. With a lot of my teenagers, I’m like, “[Ok], you did that. Anyhow, this is what we’re going to do going forward. Instead of stealing a car, how about we get you a job so you can just buy a car? I’ll teach you how to drive my own car.” In the end, you trust them, and then they do the right thing.