Feature Article – Douglas Deinert

“When I was 14 years old, I was on my way to a path of destruction.  I was considered a juvenile delinquent - everything from setting fires, running away on a regular basis, and physical altercations with my parents. After one really bad incident with my father, the choice was made that I would re-enter the foster care system.”

Sadly, Douglas Deinert was no stranger to the foster care system.  “I was born in Denver and was placed in foster care when I was a baby with my biological brother and sister, who were six and seven years old,” said Deinert, who is now 29-years-old.  He was in foster care until the age of five, when he and his two older siblings were adopted as a family.  Unfortunately, when he hit adolescence, he was involved in a series of criminal events and his adoptive parents determined he was out of their control and needed an intervention. He was placed in a VQ group home in Tucson, Arizona.  

“It was mid-November, and I was brought to VisionQuest’s Craycroft Road property and placed in the Heimlich House,” he said. “It was the first time in my life that I had ever known or seen a group home.”

VQ has been operating family-style living homes for youth in need since 1973. These group care settings, also known as Pathfinder Homes, were inspired by the Native American populations founder Bob Burton had worked with in the VISTA program. Burton envisioned a healthier and more humane way to serve children and youth in crisis and believed in rehabilitating and encouraging youth with those principles and values he learned from the Native American communities.  

Deinert speaks of how VQ programs offer services for the older teens who were getting ready to age out of the system to help them learn job and self-sufficiency skills before they get out on their own.  They are taught to cook and learn the basics of household finances.  They are also encouraged to get their education and receiving career counseling.  He credits his success as an adult to the foundation VQ gave him as a troubled teen.

“While at VQ as a youth I made my fair share of mistakes but was taught the path to success is ownership of these mistakes,” he said. “It also taught me that every action has a consequence whether it was a positive or negative one, and every action must be owned. If not for the foundation that VQ laid in my young teen years, I may have failed and never taken responsibility for my life. Put simply, VQ with their mission will lay the concrete, but you must build the house; they aren't going to do it for you.”

Deinert’s experiences have brought him full circle.  He is now employed by VQ and has reconnected with his family.  He has a strong relationship with his adoptive dad, who he refers to as his best friend.  He hopes sharing his experiences will help other kids in the foster care system.

“My experiences of being a VQ youth will resonate in my life forever. I have found success in this life because of the fabric, extraordinary experiences and foundation that VQ laid out,” he said.

“I believe my story can hopefully help youth understand that even though they are foster kids, they have an equal chance of success if they are willing to take what VQ gives them, put it into action and work hard. If my story can change just one youth’s outlook on life, then it has succeeded.

‘Life is a journey, not a destination’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

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