This week I enjoyed one of my favorite parts of my job: celebrating with my clients. As I walked with Reyna* to get the first ice cream of summer break and she recounted the details of her recent middle school graduation, I was struck yet again by her radiating joy as bright as her yellow sweater. We pointed out every dog we saw, made jokes, shared favorite stories, and she talked about her dreams for the future. Her voice was chipper as she thanked the cashier and as she asked me if we could eat our ice cream in the park.
Category: Voice of an FCNI Youth
There is such joy, excitement, and freedom that comes with moving into your first apartment. It can also be frightening navigating new environments and experiences. These highs and lows are emphasized when working with the “Foster Youth to Independence” Voucher. The Foster Youth to Independence Voucher, or FYI voucher, is a new statewide program that provides housing choice vouchers to former foster youth who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
Jensen wasn’t a kid used to getting or giving second chances. He lost his parents when he was young and spent most of his childhood bouncing between extended family members, family friends, and foster homes. He endured physical and emotional abuse from people he was told to trust, so by the time he was in his early teens, he didn’t trust anyone. By then, he’d become a ward of the state and his Social Worker, Lacey, wanted nothing more than to find him a safe and stable home. But Jensen wasn’t interested.
Prior to entering foster care, Lily lived with her two parents and three siblings--ranging in age from five to 11--and was living a pretty typical childhood. It wasn’t until after her 7th birthday that Lily’s homelife became radically different. At the time, an undiagnosed mental health illness resulted in Lily’s mom’s behavior becoming very erratic and troubling--swaying from increasingly manic episodes to bouts of deep, debilitating depression.
Meet Sacha one of the incredibly strong youth in our Wraparound program. After her mother lost her job and they were evicted from their home, Sacha, her mom and two younger sisters had no choice but to move in with her uncle to avoid homelessness. But life in his house was horrific. Unbeknownst to Sacha’s mom, her uncle was a violent man with unpredictable moods. Sacha and her sisters were subjected to his verbal and physical abuse daily, always when their mother was out of the house. When Sacha’s uncle broke her arm in a violent outrage, Sacha’s mom quickly learned the truth and immediately called the police on her brother.
Faced with fear and instability, the family was referred to FCNI's Wraparound Program so each family member could be partnered with the individual support they needed to heal and develop stronger life skills. Sacha's trauma manifested in her behaviors; she was unpredictable and, sometimes violent, especially towards her mom whom she no longer trusted and misguidedly blamed for the abuse. Sacha’s mom expressed to their team how much she was struggling with shame about her choices and that she felt that as a parent she wasn’t able to meet her girls’ needs. Sacha was paired with an Rehabilitation Specialist (RS) to help her identify and process her emotions better, so that she could utilize healthier coping and communication skills to resolve conflicts; and her mother was matched with a Parent Partner so that she could get help navigating her “new normal” within the system--therapy sessions, parenting classes and other requirements of the program.
To help focus their energy and attention on their healing, their Wraparound team collaborated with other partnering agencies to set up a weekly schedule of support, including team meetings, individual and family therapy sessions, Rehabilitation Specialists (RS) contacts, tutoring, school, and life-skills development. Each step in this process required time and patience, the team working slowly to help the family build on their strengths--their love for and commitment to each other--so that they had the skills and confidence to achieve a goal in order to move on to the next. Read Sacha's full story today and find out how you can support families recovering from domestic violence and abuse.
Meet Alexis, one of the brave youth in our care. As a foster youth, she’d been in multiple programs since she was a child, including a group home from which she had transitioned into FCNI’s TAY Housing program at 17. But like most youth her age, Alexis liked the idea of “working towards adult independence” a lot more than she did having to actually do it. She threw crowded parties with drugs and alcohol in her apartment which caused damage and led to her being hospitalized. Eventually, Alexis had to make a choice--she could either try to follow the rules of the program or she would have to exit. Alexis decided to leave her apartment and her support services behind.
Over the next two years, Alexis tried to live on her own. She ended up homeless and fell deeper into substance abuse, both of which put her in danger constantly. When she was hospitalized once again for an overdose, Alexis felt like she was at the end of her rope. At only 20, she had no idea what to do. At the hospital’s social worker’s suggestion, Alexis reached out to her previous Social Services Social Worker for help. After completing an in-patient drug rehabilitation program, Alexis was accepted into Transitional Housing. Once again, Alexis moved into her own apartment to begin her journey toward self-sufficiency. Read her full story today to see how Alexis established strong support systems, healthy life practices, and started on her pathway towards recovery and growth.
Meet Crystal, one our our incredible youth partners. In her life, Crystal has experienced neglect, and physical and emotional abuse. Through hard work, time, and working with various service providers Crystal has developed an understanding of how to form and maintain boundaries, how to develop and engage in self-care strategies, and how to manage her trauma. Today, Crystal uses her experiences to support families, children, and youth as a Youth Partner within our Family Services Program. Read her full story and how our Full-Service Partnership (FSP) program has impacted her life today!
Rosa entered college undocumented and transitioning from foster care. These two life experiences meant that she faced more obstacles than almost all of her freshmen peers. The only thing that was for certain for Rosa, was that nothing was certain. She had dreams--big dreams--but she wasn’t fully sure if they would be attainable. All she really knew was that she had the drive and the determination to do her part to achieve her goals; all she needed was a little support to go the full distance.
The following is a true story written and shared by a young woman whose bravery knows no bounds. As you read Sandra’s story, remind yourself of the immense courage it required to not only live such a life of trauma and adversity, but how much it took to write it all down, accept the words as your truth and then be willing to share that truth with strangers. Thank you, Sandra, for rising above and continuing to reach for your dreams each and every day; for choosing joy and hope when it doesn’t come easy.
At 12, twins, Kyle and Nick, were very different. Kyle was quick to react—verbally and physically—without much regard for others. While Nick, painfully shy, often let Kyle do all the talking (and reacting) for him. The boys had been placed in Emergency Shelter Care when it was discovered that their parents were unable to provide them with a safe and stable home. In care, both boys displayed the trauma that they experienced through their behaviors--Kyle became more aggressive and Nick withdrew almost completely.