The Ripple Effects of Kindness at Work

In this post, Denise Matayoshi Miño shares how the kindness of her team members during a difficult transition impacted her family and the children they fostered forever.

Five years ago, a friend called to tell me that a sibling group of children we knew were just taken into foster care. Initially, authorities couldn’t reach any extended family, and because of the shortage of foster homes, the children were split up and sent to different locations across the county.

These children, who had just experienced a traumatic separation from their parent, were now being separated from each other and traumatized even more, I thought. They were just children, too young to even comprehend what was really happening. And one of them was still a baby. Yes, a baby. The whole situation pulled firmly at my heart strings.

That night at dinner, my family and I discussed ways we could help our young friends in need. Our two boys were in their early teens, yet they saw how our family could be part of the solution. By the end of dinner, we agreed to open our home so these children could be together, at least temporarily.

A flurry of activity commenced: phone calls, meetings, background checks, and home inspections; shopping for housewares, clothing, and baby supplies.  Within a week we became kinship providers and went from a family of four to a family of seven. 

Even with our good intentions, adjusting to life together was difficult and stressful at first.  Blending families is never easy, particularly with so much uncertainty and confusion.  The baby cried a lot and often became sick. My boys weren’t used to sharing their parents. The new children had to learn to follow the norms of our home but schedules, routines, and rules were all new to them. We had to find time for medical appointments, school enrollments, and meetings with teachers as well as meetings with social workers and court staff, hearings, and more. Plus the holidays were coming, an already overwhelming time of year for those who celebrate.

Did I mention I had a full-time job at a state agency?

Several of my coworkers knew of the commitment we’d made to these children and the challenges this brought. They chose to be supportive in helpful and tangible ways. They willingly covered for me when I needed to take leave. In these times, I felt guilty for not being at work, but they were understanding of this temporary state of affairs.

And then a group of co-workers did something even more unexpected: They adopted our new family members for Christmas. Collectively, they purchased gifts for each child, ensuring that they had presents under the tree. They even made sure that the children’s biological mother had a few gifts too. Some co-workers provided meals and others baked goodies for the boys. Each act of kindness filled my heart and gave me strength when I felt so depleted.

At a time when my contributions and engagement at work were at a low, my colleagues overlooked this and reached out to show their support for me and my family.  All of this helped me to focus my energy on the urgent needs of my new family members. Through these small acts of kindness, I felt cared for, and most of all, loved by the people in my office. What a beautiful experience!

My co-workers’ compassion rippled well beyond that initial flurry of adjustments and holidays. In fact, every couple weeks for many years someone would gift us with blankets, or hand-me-down clothes in good condition, or a plate of cookies for the kids, or some other practical kindness. This steady and often anonymous support spread through our lives and the lives of the children in a lasting way.

You see, we were able to provide long-term foster care for these children, and they are doing quite well. The oldest graduated from high school and aged out of foster care. And this year on National Adoption Day we adopted the younger two! The compassion of my co-workers had ripple effects that helped to make this possible.

Want to know more about our foster to adopt story? Check out the video and article in The Olympian.

Denise Matayoshi Miño is an original and ongoing participant in A Human Workplace and served as a valuable intern and collaborator during the Fall of 2018.