In the first half of 2021, we served 321 children through life-changing, one-to-one relationships. We supported hundreds more children through foster caregiver support, child welfare advocacy, and insightful trainings held across multiple states.
Here are some of our favorite stories half-way through the year. We hope you find meaningful insight within each story.
* All names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.
Nicole has been tutoring Latoya for almost a year now. Latoya's foster mom told me of the strong rapport they are continuing to build while working together on Latoya's reading comprehension. When the tutoring sessions started, Latoya was on a 3rd grade reading level, despite being in 5th grade.
She had a very negative view of school, hated reading, and was insecure about reading out loud to anyone. It took time, but after about three months, Latoya began trusting and opening up to Nicole. Nicole goes above and beyond with support for Latoya, offering her both academic and emotional support, even giving her books for her birthday, to encourage and to build confidence in her reading skills.
Now, Latoya is up to speed, reading on a 5th grade level. She tells her foster mom that of all her appointments - speech therapist, IEP, and tutoring - she looks forward to and enjoys tutoring the most.
This story means so much to me because my own sister, who was also in foster care around Latoya’s age, struggled significantly with reading. She was embarrassed to read out loud to anyone. Through no fault of her own, she grew more and more behind in school, most likely due to changing schools so much while in foster care. It means so much to me to see Nicole's compassion, dedication, patience, and empathy for Latoya, when she could have easily given up or felt discouraged by Latoya's lack of interest the first three months. Instead, Nicole persevered, much like Latoya did, because she always saw Latoya's potential. She just wanted to help Latoya see it too.
Thinking back this year, I'm reminded of a mentor who said something very profound: "Even in darkness, a flitter of light promotes hope." You see, he mentors a young boy with seemingly very little hope.
This young boy, Jimmy, was separated from his siblings, and his parents’ rights had been terminated. His siblings were getting adopted, but he was left feeling hopeless and rejected. The mentor started taking Jimmy with him to his church on youth night and suddenly Jimmy found a purpose. He began making new positive friends and became a leader in group activities. He found love and self assurance because all of a sudden he felt like his life mattered.
Yes, he was faced with a lot of adversity, but his mentor was able to show him that the world is so much bigger than his current situation. Now Jimmy has found that there's more to life than disappointment - there's hope!
My College Fellows student, Vera, was behind in her graduation requirements, moving through kin placements and struggling with foster care and all the trauma she experienced.
Since I met her she reunited with her little brother after 10 years of no contact. She completed high school EARLY, after being told she would be lucky to finish a semester late. She proved others wrong, overcoming virtual school and social isolation. She graduated with her class. She will be the first person in her family to go to college next month. She got her first job, her first apartment, and her first car this year. She is a force to be reckoned with. Her goal is to be an entrepreneur and create generational opportunities and wealth for herself and her younger brother.
Her brother is moving into his forever home. The adoptive family is dedicated to upholding the bond these two siblings are recreating.
Vera is propelling into the next phase of her life armed with determination, and understanding the weight of the challenges she must overcome. She has a College Fellows coach who will ensure she has all the support she needs. She received a laptop from a corporate donor, Panzura, which she was so thankful to receive. I look forward to the day her brother watches her graduate from college.
I want to share my reflections through poetry. I penned this poem in February, 2021, after reflecting on my own experience in foster care (age 14 to 17) and the youth I am honored to serve through our College Fellows program. I have named this poem Hopeful.
Knowing that my black bags would soon be filled with some of my so-called “trash.”
Thrown in the back of a stranger’s car
The only thing familiar was the words on their badge
Off to another unknown place
Unknown only by name,
but in my mind, they all operate the same
“I can do this. I’ve always done this.”
My repetitive thoughts never spoken out loud
It’s the raw, unspoken thoughts of a real foster child
“Pull me out of this mess!”
I screamed silently
Clutching the seatbelt like some sort of deranged safety nest,
Coupled with the thoughts of the “Mom” that never came to save me from this stress
My anger doesn't take me by surprise
It’s how I’ve learned to cope
The fight is with the inner voice, that still silently screams… HOPE
Still reeling from the pain
But holding onto the belief
That hopefully my heart will slowly move away from all this grief
Life’s recovery is approaching
And it’s coming way too fast.
Caught between the hopeful dream of success,
While my mind keeps paying visits to my past…
I am going to tell you a story of inspiration and success that doesn't follow the prescribed guidelines of a happy ending but is a success story nonetheless. Jessica came to Moms Matter in August of 2020 after the removal of her older son to foster care and the murder of her younger son by the baby's father. Jessica was 22 years old. The baby was 18 months old. Jessica and the father were both substance abusers; the father is in prison, but Jessica got clean and has stayed clean.
Coming to us in a place of shock, denial, trauma, guilt and shame, addiction, distrust, and an inability to even voice what was inside of her, Jessica has made amazing strides. She has learned to tell her story in her own way. She has learned to trust a couple of people and to persevere in her recovery.
She went from refusing all help and therapy to now seeing a grief therapist and opening up to us a little at a time. Jessica has completed her treatment requirements, is employed, working on her family relationships, sees a therapist regularly, and is keeping in touch through Moms Matter.
Currently, in her recovery journey and search for self awareness, Jessica is questioning whether her 4 year old might not be better off adopted. Can you imagine the amount of love, awareness, honesty and sacrifice it would take to admit your own limitations for the good of your child? No matter what Jessica decides to do, I know that her love for her son guides her in all of her decisions. Good Moms don't always have fairytale endings, but love and courage will always shine through. Jessica is my hero this year!
The story that pops out the most would have to be the Carter's. Two brothers, one in a foster home and one being adopted by a family member. Almost 13 and 17, the boys share this bond that you literally can feel. They are so excited to see each other through our Sib-Link program. In a recent visit, I must have heard "I love you" a million times.
Their love for each other can not be denied, but what has stuck out in addition to their closeness is the closeness between the boys and their caregivers.
Todd, who lives with his foster mom, Ms. Renee, is very close to her. I saw him hug and say I love you and yes ma'am. In a ride back home he expressed his concern for her health and stated he hopes she gets better because he doesn't know what he would do without her. My heart was so full knowing he genuinely felt loved and cared for by Ms. Renee.
Ms. Renee expressed to me that she never had children and she and her family treat Todd as family...... and it SHOWS. While Ms. Renee has been in the hospital for a couple months, her sister was caring for Todd. Ms. Renee said Todd had a choice and he chose to stay with her.....WOW!!
To switch gears, Kevin had nothing but smiles and excitement all day on this particular visit. He called Ms. Asher “mom” and wanted to know where she was throughout the visit. This by far was the visit that touched me the most. It expresses the essence of what’s important when kids enter the system: while they are not reunified together or even with their parents, they are receiving the next best thing…true love and care. I lost track of how many times I held back tears of joy, just seeing the best sides of humanity.
Susan, the older sister, was in the foster care system until she turned 18 and returned home. Her time in care was hard on her and she continues to battle with depression and anxiety. She worries about her brother Tom, who is still in foster care and has been moved several times, most recently to a home 3 hours away.
Their Sib-Link visit started out well, but the mood quickly changed after Tom received a hug from his sister. He started to sob, sad that he lives so far away. "I'm depressed," he said, "and I feel all alone. No one understands." But Susan knew exactly how he felt. "Don't you know I was also where you were?" she said. “Don't you realize that I have dealt with depression and still do? Don't you think I know what it is like to be in foster care?" Susan started to sob. I gave them a moment while they hugged and cried.
They needed each other so much. Susan hugged her brother tightly, re-affirming her love for him and how he needed to hang in there. He cried and listened. "I know it's not easy,” Susan said, "but you are strong and you can do this."
Tom was anxious about continuing sibling visits. "I thought I would not be able to see my sister….She is the only one I have." I assured him that they would continue every month. He smiled. They hugged again, and then went happily off to ride go karts. Before too long the visit was over and Tom got in his transport to travel the 3 hours home. Susan and I headed back to her house, and I dropped her off. She did not talk much on the way home.
As I reflected on the visit, I was initially sad. It opened my eyes to the necessity of sibling bonds, especially when siblings are separated. It opened my eyes to the trauma kids in foster care face daily. Then I remembered the hug, the tears, the cleansing; two siblings allowing themselves to feel their emotions, show their fears, hold each other and cry. Beyond the sadness, you can see the beauty of their relationship growing and flourishing. I look forward to standing back and quietly watching a relationship bloom.
A foster mom was really saddened by the move of two youth in her care to a relative. She celebrated with them for their reunion, but grieved for herself. After almost two years in her care, she didn't know how she could move forward without them. Initially, she considered closing her home and giving up her foster license. But she took in a short-term placement. It went well. Then she accepted a long-term placement of a young girl that may turn to an adoptive placement. She feels in her heart that she is meant to provide a home to those who need one.
Thank you for your support - we couldn't do this work without you.