A Conversation with Mary Keane
Do you have any leaders or people that you admire or helped influence your work today?
Probably the leader who most influenced my work is the founder of You Gotta Believe, Pat O’Brien. It was Pat who convinced me that I wanted nothing more than to leave a nice paying career to work for YGB and to help to create more families for kids in foster care who are about to age out of care without a family.
Aside from Pat, the people I most admire and who influence my work are my kids and all kids who have survived being in the foster care system and who grow into the most inspirational people when given a chance. For over 21 years now, they continue to inspire and motivate me every day.
What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
Finding the right family for a kid who needs one and watching them eventually settle in and begin to blossom into who they were meant to be – but might never have become without the love of a family
What was the key moment when you realized you wanted to pursue this work?
After my kids had been with me for a while and I realized I could not solve the problem of teens aging out without a family by myself, that there were far too many kids for me to help. I saw how my kids flourished in a family and how much I got out of watching them and how they helped me to grow up. I wanted more people to experience that feeling and more kids to have the love they deserved.
What are the best or hardest parts of your job?
The best parts are when a match takes hold and you can see a family being connected to their kid no matter what that kid does to push them away and resist being loved.
The hardest parts are when a match does not work and the family is not willing to do the work to keep the kid. This is always because the family is stuck in their own issues and are not willing to work through them and instead, blame the kid for the problems. The parents are simply not willing to do the work to grow up.
What advice would you give to some pursuing this work and what do you wish people knew about foster care/adoption?
I always recommend that people who have experienced the system from any angle, come back to work within it to make it a better experience for those coming behind them. The most important thing is to meet everyone where they are and to honor them as valuable and important human beings with a powerful voice and story, and to know they just want to be seen and heard.
I wish people really understood how rewarding this work can be when you are in it for the right reasons. There is very little that is more important in life than ensuring that kids have someone to love and nurture them.