Supporting Sabrina: Putting the Social in Social Work

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by Sarah Davenport, FCNI Staff
March, 18, 2020 -

At 17, Sabrina’s fears about her future increased each day she got closer to turning 18. As a foster youth, Sabrina didn’t have a family to support her or to live with following her emancipation from foster care at 18. And unfortunately, she couldn’t remain with her current foster parents because her mental health struggles had taken too much of a toil on their relationship. When she learned that she was at-risk for not graduating high school due to her low credits, she and her Social Worker, Ana, sat down to go over her options. Together, they decided to have Sabrina apply for an FCNI housing program called Transitional Housing Plus (THP+), a program for older foster youth that involves a youth living in their own apartment while receiving critical support, guidance and life skills development to ensure that they reach their future goals and become successfully self-sufficient adults. 

Before transitioning into the program, Ana helped Sabrina reconnect with Callie, a previous mentor of hers. Callie and Sabrina had built a strong connection when Sabrina had first been placed in foster care, but had lost touch in the last year as Sabrina’s mental health needs had increased. But Ana remembered Callie’s loving nature and she was hopeful that she would want to help Sabrina if she could. To Sabrina’s surprise, Ana and Callie worked together to offer Sabrina a unique living situation that Ana felt would best fit Sabrina’s individual needs--Callie would be her “host home” while Sabrina was in THP+. In this arrangement, Sabrina would have her own room and bathroom with more independence while still being in a family setting. She’d also have the added support of someone she knew while she worked on graduating and learning new life skills. Sabrina happily agreed, feeling like she was being given a better chance at success. ​

Although optimistic, Sabrina’s past trauma continued to derail her progress. Having been hurt by so many adults in the past, trusting people was hard for Sabrina, and it took time for her to feel safe in her new home and with a new family. And while some days she felt positive, other days Sabrina’s negative self-talk and anxieties made it impossible for her to get anything done. Ana helped connect Sabrina with a mental health therapist, and her team consistently modeled positive talk and appropriate coping skills to her. While it took time and work, Sabrina eventually settled into her new circumstances and was able to process her expectations and emotions in much healthier ways. Ana remained Sabrina’s strongest advocate throughout her ups and downs, pushing her to ask for help when needed, encouraging her to be patient with the process and congratulating her on every goal she achieved. ​

Each success Sabrina reached—big or small-- helped sharpen her focus on achieving her ultimate goal--graduating high school. After several months of hard work, Sabrina was back on track to finish high school with her peers, thankful for the help she received from her social worker, foster mom and an FCNI tutor.

Following graduation, Sabrina’s life got more complicated but also more exciting. Having accomplished something she feared she never would—graduation!—Sabrina felt more empowered and capable. She participated in workshops to learn more about possible careers and gain job readiness skills. After some time exploring, Sabrina eventually decided to pursue a nursing career, and with Ana’s help she enrolled in classes at her local community college. Ana also connected Sabrina with a friend of hers who is a nurse so that Sabrina could shadow her, which made Sabrina fall even more in love with the role and the opportunity to help people. ​

In care, Sabrina was given the resources, safe space, stability and support she needed to find her footing and pave a new path. She also established a strong connection with her new family, and continued to be supported by those like Ana who knew her potential, which opened the door for her to heal from past trauma and be part of something bigger than herself. No longer fearful, Sabrina is now grabbing hold of her future with two strong and hopeful hands.  ​

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