Loneliness and Isolation
Anyone who meets Natasha is instantly struck by her bright smile and even brighter soul. She is a 10-year-old bundle of joy and laughter. It is difficult to believe that she has spent the last two years in Foster Care, bouncing between homes and schools. When Natasha was 8 years old, she entered the foster care system after being removed from her home. Shortly after, her county social worker referred her case to the Permanent Connections Program, hoping that a Family Engagement Specialist could help Natasha connect with family and build a long term support system. Family Engagement Specialist, Cori, was assigned Natasha’s case.
As Cori began meeting with Natasha, a picture of her life started to form. One of loneliness and isolation. Despite having two parents who loved her, violence, confusion, and instability had been a part of her life from a young age. She would recount hiding in her bedroom closet and covering her ears when her parents were fighting, doing whatever she could to feel safe. It was clear that this resilient and loving child was in need of supportive and caring connections. She deserved, as all children do, to feel safe and protected.
Family Finding and Engagement
Cori went to work to begin searching for individuals who could support Natasha for the rest of her life. Each time Cori and Natasha would meet, Natasha would express her desire to know more of her family. Having grown up an only child, she wanted to experience what it was like to have a big, fun, loving family. In December of 2017, Cori discovered that Natasha did, in fact, have a BIG family. Cori uncovered 4 adult half-siblings who all shared the same mother as Natasha. Cori began reaching out to these siblings and building relationships. Out of the 4 individuals who were found, 3 were excited and ready to begin a relationship with Natasha.
Natasha was overjoyed when she realized that she had so many siblings! Cori began to facilitate contact between Natasha and the siblings; exchanging letters, photos, and video chats. Then, on a sunny day in May 2018, Natasha arrived at a picnic at the beach where her 3 siblings were waiting to meet her. Tears and laughter and lots of questions were present on that special day as Natasha met her brother and sisters for the first time.
Engagement and Readiness Work Continues
Fast forward nine months and Natasha is in constant communication with her siblings. There have been many more phone calls, visits and even Christmas vacation spent together. Her siblings are committed to being a part of her life long term and cannot imagine a life without their bubbly little sister Natasha.
While these beautiful relationships were developing over the past year, Cori was also able to engage the family of another half-sibling of Natasha’s. Joey is Natasha’s younger brother and was adopted at birth by Katie and Andrew in New Jersey. Through open adoption, Natasha has had the opportunity to meet Joey and his family a few times over the last several years. With the support of Cori and the Permanent Connections program, Natasha was able to strengthen and grow her relationship with Joey. Now, Katie and Andrew are currently going through the process to have Natasha come live with them. In a few shorts months, Natasha will be living in the same home as her brother Joey, with two caring guardians (Katie and Andrew) and surrounded by the support of her 3 adult siblings.
Less than two years ago, Natasha was searching for family. Today, she is surrounded by it. She is safe and protected and is experiencing more each day what it means to be part of a big, fun, loving family.
Our Program helps families establish a lifetime network of support for children and youth who are disconnected from their biological family. Through a variety of services we:
- Support youth in developing a healthy sense of identity and maintaining connections to important aspects of their culture and community.
- Enable young adults emerging from care to live safely and productively within their communities.
- Increase connections, decrease dependence on the formal service system, and enhance family-driven decision making.
To learn more about YMCA Permanent Connections, contact Charmaine Utz, [email protected].
**At the Y, we respect everyone who comes to us to share their story – and many are working toward a fresh start in life. So while their stories are true, names and images have been changed to protect their privacy.**