As a foster youth, Alexis was one tough cookie. 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 refused to adhere to the most basic program guidelines, meeting curfew, and attending school and team meetings regularly. She said she hated being “under someone’s thumb,” so she routinely rebelled against her workers. 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 packed a small backpack of her belongings, and decided to leave her apartment and THPP behind.
Over the next two years, Alexis tried to live on her own. She slept in homeless shelters or with people she met. Instead of getting a job or finishing high school, Alexis spent her time trying to get high, and she was in danger constantly. When she was hospitalized once again for drug use, 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 THP+. Once again, Alexis moved into her own apartment to learn how to be successfully self-sufficient.
Alexis wanted things to be different this time, but old habits die hard. Alexis’ circle included a lot of negative people--people who encouraged her drug use and didn’t want to see her clean, happy or healthy. At her first few team meetings, her workers stressed how important a healthy support network was for Alexis’ success. She was encouraged to spend her time with people who lifted her up instead of dragged her down. One such person who worked most closely with Alexis was her Youth Partner, Jade. Jade had been a foster youth so she knew the hard choices and work that Alexis faced. She took her role of encouraging and supporting Alexis very seriously, because she knew it really was a matter of Alexis’ life or death.
Fearful of slipping back into old habits, Alexis and Jade met several times a week to focus on Alexis developing stronger life skills. By communicating better, Alexis learned that she could be a better advocate for herself--not only with her team but also against the negative people in her life. Jade also attended Alexis’ first several AA meetings with her until Alexis felt comfortable going on her own. And Jade continually modeled how to be a healthy influence--demonstrating encouragement and accountability in firm yet caring ways that Alexis really responded to. Soon, Jade and Alexis were expanding their life skills lessons to include basic cooking, money management and career planning. Alexis even enrolled in a GED program and was working hard to finally become a high school graduate.
While it wasn’t smooth sailing from day one, Alexis’ self-worth proved to be her saving grace. All of the quality time she spent with Jade rebuilt her hope and belief in herself, which helped her gravitate toward healthier relationships and made it possible for her to build a solid support system outside of the program. She also learned a lot of basic skills, like how to complete applications for work, housing and to get her Driver’s License, how to access and store all of her important documents, and how to plan out her week’s meals and activities so she could set good spending parameters to make sure all of her needs were met. While seemingly simple, each learned skill led to another and another, which eventually helped Alexis build a much more independent adult life.
Jade and Alexis no longer meet weekly--Alexis is too busy with her friends, her job, her community college classes and her newfound love of spin classes. But Jade doesn’t mind. They still text and talk on the phone, and Alexis still looks to her for support and advice. But the fact that Jade no longer has to hold Alexis’ hand through her life gives Jade a lot of pride. She got to witness a young girl go from being very lost to becoming very strong and successful. And Jade knows that Alexis’ story is really just beginning.