A Second Chance

May is National Foster Care Month

Tiffany entered foster care at fifteen, after it was determined that her grandmother, with whom she had been living, could no longer care for her.

Her mother, who struggled with addiction, had been out of the picture for many years and her father overdosed on heroin when she was just a baby.

Though Tiffany had a positive experience in foster care, where she remained until she “aged out” at nineteen, she wasn’t fully ready to live on her own, so she was transferred to VOA-Greater New York’s Synergy II, an independent living program for young adults who have left foster care. In addition to being given a place to live, youth in the program are taught life skills like budgeting, building credit and how to cook healthy meals.

While at the program, however, Tiffany became involved in a dispute with another resident, which resulted in her expulsion from the program. She was temporarily moved to another one of VOA-Greater New York’s independent living programs, Synergy III in Jersey City, while alternate arrangements were being made.

But Kevin Williams, a case manager at the program, knows the value of second chances and could sense potential in Tiffany. He recalls calling her into his office one day and asking, “What if you remain here?”

Tiffany began to cry, saying that she would love nothing more, and would work hard to move forward in a positive way.

Once the decision had been made for Tiffany to remain at Synergy III, she and Kevin got to work on formulating her personal goals. When she expressed interest in obtaining a job in healthcare services, Kevin helped her find and apply to several nursing school programs.

But when the pandemic began, Tiffany’s educational goals were put on hold, and she had to look for a job. During this time, she actively participated in weekly sessions at Synergy III, where she learned about time management and how to keep a budget.

Then, roughly three months after she entered the program, Tiffany discovered that she was pregnant.

The baby’s father said he wasn’t ready to start a family, and Tiffany struggled with deciding what to do. She became depressed, sometimes spending days asleep in her room with the shades drawn.

But when Kevin came to check on her, he opened her blinds and made sure she got outside. He educated her on all her options, making sure she knew he would be there to support her in whatever decision she would make.

Once Tiffany decided to keep the baby, her weekly life skills sessions became centered around prenatal care, her emotional health and locating suitable housing. Because VOA-Greater New York does not currently have any programs for teen mothers, Kevin helped Tiffany find a program with another provider. Together, they researched the many options and toured facilities, eventually settling on a wonderful program that provided counseling, nurse monitoring and day care in addition to housing and case management. Entry into that program required extensive paperwork in addition to an intimidating interview process. Kevin guided Tiffany through all of it.

Tiffany got into the program, had a beautiful baby girl named Eva, and also managed to finish her nurse’s aide certification. Currently, she’s looking for an apartment.

Recently, she reached out to Kevin to thank him.

“I landed in a good place because I had someone in my life that didn’t give up on me.”

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