This Sunday, FCNI will host our Benefit for Kids, an annual showcasing of the best food and beverages on the Central Coast combined with a silent and live auction. Proceeds earned through the event support the over 1800 children, youth and families we serve annually. This event has become one of our favorites, mostly because we get to partner with so many amazing community members. Outstanding restaurants, wineries, breweries, and an amazing group of donors and esteem guests, all come together to collectively support those we serve in their efforts to overcome trauma and live healthier, more successful lives. It’s a sight to see so many talented and compassionate people spend an afternoon not only celebrating the many benefits of living on the Central Coast, but also working to support a shared purpose of ensuring that everyone in our community has the resources and opportunities necessary to thrive!
Below is a success story written about Carmen*, a foster youth who was placed in our Intensive Therapeutic Foster Care program when she was 15. Her struggles to overcome various obstacles and traumas, exemplify how critical our community’s support is; we serve 1800+ other “Carmens,” and without community-connection, investment and resources, we couldn’t help them reach their goals and flourish.
At 15 years old, Carmen found herself reentering the foster care system for the second time when her parents relapsed into addiction. She was first placed in Emergency Shelter Care, but it soon became evident that her traumatic past affected her ability to express herself well—she was short-tempered, untrusting and often resorted to physically aggression. To meet her higher needs, Carmen was transitioned into an Intensive Therapeutic Foster home for critical support services.
Carmen’s traumatic past caused her to display a strong mistrust of others, which kept her from establishing healthy connections, drastically impacting her relationships with her foster mom and peers. In team meetings or any situations where she felt vulnerable, Carmen would become physically and verbally agitated, and her foster mom and workers struggled to keep her calm and engaged. At school, Carmen’s temper was easily provoked, which resulted in her spending most of her days in the office. All those these factors impeded her academic success and her social development.
To target her various issues, Carmen was matched with a mental health therapist and an FCNI Rehabilitation Specialist (RS). At first, she refused to talk to them, and got upset quickly when they met with her. Her anger would get the best of her, and Carmen would yell at them to get away from her, saying, “You don’t really care about me! You have to be here.” But her team remained steadfast in their support and ongoing efforts, taking time to get to know the Carmen beneath the all the hurt and mistrust she’d built up. After several weeks, Carmen started to see her workers as supporters rather than as people who want to hurt her. With a more open relationship, Carmen worked with her team to learn critical skills, her RS modeling positive coping and communication skills, while also providing Carmen with positive reinforcement and praise. Carmen’s self-esteem grew along with her skills—every positive choice she made resulted in positive praise, which helped her self-worth blossom.
As Carmen improved, her team focused on helping her set attainable goals and map out the steps she needed to take to achieve them. When Carmen shared that she wanted to try out for her school’s soccer team, her team completely supported her efforts, recognizing how being a part of a team would further boost her self-esteem and help her make positive connections with her peers, something that was extremely important to the teen girl.
During her time in care, Carmen flourished under the stability and care she received. And even though she experienced some setbacks, such as when a long term placement fell through, overall, she learned how to process her emotions safely and appropriately, and was able to move forward despite life’s disappointments. And Carmen enjoyed a lot of success, including making her school’s soccer team, a major goal of hers that resulted in her building stronger friendships and enjoy being a normal teen.
Carmen is now looking forward to transitioning into FCNI’s Transitional Age Youth Housing program after her 17th birthday. She looks at her time in foster care with a lot of pride; seeing her foster home as a safe place she was able to land, so she could dust herself off and better prepare for her journey ahead. And by learning the skills she needed to, she’s now excited to see where this journey will take her.
*Names and details have been changed to protect client’s identity