An Aging Out Independence (AOI) Success Story: Vernisha

Vernisha R. is an amazing young woman who has demonstrated perseverance and a desire to succeed despite the odds.  Formerly in Foster Care, Vernisha has never been a stranger to challenge and uncertainty. Like most Foster Care and transitioning youth at Tabor Children’s Services (Tabor), she pondered over questions like Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want to do? How do I get there?

Vernisha was accepted into Tabor’s Aging Out Independence Program (AOI) at the age of 21 on December 2, 2015. Through the AOI program, Vernisha has been provided with supportive services to ensure she would be empowered to move on to live an independent adult life.  Under the guidance of Tabor’s AOI program, young transitioning adults engage in organized activities that contribute to their personal growth and development. The goal is to build on the individual’s innate strengths by promoting self-confidence, teaching life skills, helping them to develop new ways of problem solving, encouraging positive relationships with family and peers, and  increase competence as they mature and move into independence.

Vernisha moved from a shaky foundation, through the AOI program and on to firm ground. She continuously fulfilled AOI requirements and demonstrated the desire and ability to go above and beyond. One area that Vernisha continuously excelled in was the ability to demonstrate drive and work ethic. She maintained gainful employment during her journey through the AOI program and graduated from Job Corps on June 27, 2016, as a medical assistant.

We are proud to announce Vernisha’s most recent accomplishment was being hired at Woods Services as a Residential Counselor. Woods Services is a leading advocacy and service organization for people with exceptional challenges, disabilities and complex needs. Vernisha will be a part of and working for an organization that envisions a world where an individual has opportunities and supports that promotes self-determination, the joy of achievement and a fulfilling life.

After the completion of her fist official week on November 25, 2016, Vernisha reported back to Tabor expressing how extremely excited and happy she is to be moving on to this next chapter of her life. She will even receive tuition reimbursement availability as she has a desire to return to school to further her education.  Tabor is extremely proud of Vernisha who continues to prove to be an example that a youth with willingness, drive, and some welcomed help can truly succeed.  Vernisha is a true Tabor AOI success story and we cannot wait for her many future accomplishments!

 

Summer Success Story – Caitlin

 

Caitlin Rose is a Foster Youth, and a member of Tabor Children’s Services Youth Advisory Board, where she is a representative of youth, adolescents, and children of Bucks County. She willingly entered the system at age 16 hoping that Tabor would provide stability and a future for her, and it has! She is graduating from Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, takes Honors and AP classes, and will be attending Arcadia University in the fall of this year where she will be majoring in English with a focus on Creative Writing and minoring in Education. Her goal is to one day become an English teacher and publish her own written works.  She also recently entered Tabor’s Mentoring Program and is awaiting a mentor match.

Cailtin is a remarkable young woman who has overcome many challenges and possesses a desire to tell her story and advocate for other youth who are in the process of overcoming their own personal challenges as they enter or “age out” of the child welfare system.  

Caitlin told her remarkable story at our inaugural event “Taste of TABOR” chef showcase and fundraising event. This event successfully matched 15 youth with mentor chefs and raised funds for youth who come from a background of abuse or neglect and those who are preparing to “age out” of the child welfare system.

Caitlin’s Story & Appeal: Adopt, Foster, Mentor, Donate or Volunteer

I would like to start this speech by thanking all of you for coming out to the first annual Taste of Tabor event, which will certainly be the overture of many more to come in the future. I pray this all starts conversations about the wonderful services provided by the workers at Tabor Children Services, and give a new connotation to the term “Foster Care System”.

While I myself am not a typical foster youth, my past is not dissimilar from my peers within the system. My parents divorced when I was 8 years old. My mother and I moved in with her mother, my Grandma, who even in her old age took us both in when we needed it the most. At 9, my Grandmother obtained full custody of me after my mother spiraled into alcohol addiction, going in and out of rehabilitation. This cycle continued for the next 7 years, although as much as my Grandmother tried, her dementia eventually made her unable to properly take care of me. At the age of 16, I willingly put myself in the Foster Care System to better her life and mine. Because of this, my view of the system and the people within it are is a study in contrast of those around me.

After being placed in the care of a foster family, I can say with full confidence that I have found a family there, and the love I feel in their home is unmatched by any that I have felt for a very long time.

Throughout the darkest days of these last two years, I have had the kind workers at Tabor Children’s Services by my side. I would confide in workers about my troubles, and be reassured when I was losing hope. Along with this emotional support, I have also had the opportunity to receive financial support in purchasing my class ring, prom ticket, and senior pictures. Without Tabor Children’s Services, I would never have been able to afford any of these things. In addition, through the Life Skills Class I attended in the winter and spring of 2015, I gained the knowledge and skills I’ll need for when I live out on my own, including information about budgeting and how to obtain a job.

Simply, these kinds of things are what “normal” teenagers take for granted. Their parents buy them their senior pictures and their class rings; their parents are their emotional support and their role models. For me, Tabor Children Services has given me this sense of “normalcy”, and I have not taken any of it for granted.

Out of all these services that have helped me life a life, the one I haven’t obtained yet is perhaps the one that I’ve needed the most: Tabor Children Service’s Mentoring Program. Through this service, I and other foster youth over the age of 14 are voluntarily matched with an adult of the same gender from the community to bond and connect with. Foster Youth often feel surrounded by a bunch of figures that only lend an ear because that’s their job; what separates the Mentors from the Social Workers is the simple fact that the Mentors care for purely intrinsic reasons. Mentors will stay in the youth’s life, becoming a constant and role model for those who need that guidance the most.

While I’m not an exemplary sample of youth that can be mentored, I firmly believe that if any youth is given a chance to be guided and given love, that all my peers in the system with me can achieve great heights and fulfill all their goals and aspirations. This belief should not be held by just me, but by anyone who is willing to devote their time, love, and understanding to a foster youth.

With all of this in mind, there is certainly something that all of you here today can do to help Tabor Children’s Services in this vision of helping foster youth. Tonight, I ask you to make a personal pledge to adopt, foster, mentor, donate, or volunteer to support Tabor Children’s Services’ mission and positively impact the lives of children and youth alike.


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Adoption Success Story: Carson

Carson entered the child welfare system in 2007 after being removed from the care of his biological mother for child neglect. For six years, Carson transitioned to several foster care and pre-adoptive homes with the hope that one of the resources would commit to being his forever family. Together Tabor Children’s Services and the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) recognized that Carson required a family that would never give up on him even when he presented with less than ideal behaviors. Also, it was obvious Carson needed a family that understood that not all children know how to receive healthy unconditional love from a stable and committed family.

After countless moves and non-stop recruitment efforts by Tabor’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter and the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, during the summer of 2012, the perfect pre-adoptive resource expressed an interest to meet Carson. Ms. Sheena, a Tabor Resource Parent, only saw a picture of Carson and knew minimal information. She immediately connected with Carson after seeing his photograph. To Ms. Sheena, Carson’s eyes expressed a sadness and loneliness that she and her family could help him to overcome. After learning about his needs, she decided to start the process to be considered a possible pre-adoptive resource for Carson. Ms. Sheena attended approximately 12 weeks of resource parent training so she could meet her future son.

After fulfilling the requirements to become a pre-adoptive resource, Ms. Sheena and her family were introduced to Carson. Immediately, the family welcomed Carson into their home and treated him as if he had always been part of the family. Carson immediately became recognized as Ms. Sheena’s son and she treated him with the respect and love a mother would give to her own child. To the adoption team, it was obvious that Ms. Carson presented as the best pre-adoptive resource. She provided Carson with unconditional love, advocated for educational support, sought family therapy to help Carson integrate into the family, and effectively utilized the services of Tabor’s Permanency Team.

After one year and a half, the adoption team petitioned the courts for the legal adoption of Carson to Ms. Sheena. March 2014, Ms. Sheena officially adopted Carson. For Carson, this was a dream that came true because he was finally adopted by a family that would love him forever.

Justin’s Success Story

JustinJustin entered the child welfare system in 2007 after being removed from the care of his biological mother for child neglect. For two years, Tabor Children’s Services and the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) attempted to reunify Justin with his biological family through providing counseling services, parenting classes as well as additional supports to stabilize the family and return them to a healthy state of development. All reunification efforts were unsuccessful; therefore, in 2009 Justin’s permanency goal was changed to adoption.

For 4 years, Justin transitioned to several foster homes. In July 2012, Justin began to work with his Recruiter, Kia Medley-Stephens, through Tabor Children’s Services and the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.

Over the course of 6 months, Kia worked with Justin to establish a positive rapport, with the intent to understand his needs and the type of parent needed to guide Justin throughout his childhood and adolescence.

In January 2013, Justin was introduced to Mr. Doe, a school principal. Immediately, the two connected and started weekly visitation until they were officially matched in April 2013. After living with Mr. Doe for several months, there came a unanimous decision that Justin and Mr. Doe were a complete family unit.

In October 2013, the adoption team petitioned the courts for the legal adoption— and by December 2013, Mr. Doe officially adopted Justin. It was the perfect gift for the two for the holidays: A loving forever family.

 

Adoption Success Story: Mark and James

Mark-James_v2Mark and James, a sibling pair, entered the Pennsylvania child welfare system in 2009 after being removed from the care of their biological family for child neglect. For one year, the siblings transitioned to three different Tabor Children’s Services (Tabor) foster homes. In 2010, Mark and James were referred to Tabor for child-focused recruitment through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. Throughout the year, Tabor worked to recruit the perfect forever family for them. In January 2012, Mr. and Mrs. K. expressed their interest in adoption and the sibling pair. The family learned about the children at a matching party that highlighted children in need of forever families.

The adoption team at Tabor worked alongside the family to ensure Mr. And Mrs. K would be able to parent and advocate for the children as their permanent family. Prior to interacting with Mark and James, Mr. and Mrs. K. were required to participate in a comprehensive training that prepared them to parent and provide supports to children that endured grief, loss, and trauma. After successfully completing the training, the family began interacting with Mark and James, fell in love, and started the process to become their new family.

The road to becoming pre-adoptive parents was not easy for Mr. and Mrs. K. The couple lacked experience parenting children, but knew they wanted to give back to their community by serving as a resource for disenfranchised youth. The adoption team at Tabor supported the soon to be forever family by meeting with each of them on a weekly basis; they did this to help prepare each individual and ensure the children were successfully integrated into the family. The team provided extensive trainings on forging connections with the boys and provided unique supports and direction. At times of difficulty, the team was available to provide the appropriate guidance, make recommendations, and truly advocate for the family to ensure the adoption would result in a success story for the entire family.
After months of learning the unique needs of the siblings, the family demonstrated they were prepared to parent the children without the assistance of the adoption team. In May 2013, Mr. and Mrs. K. officially adopted Mark and James. After the finalization, Mark was observed crying tears of joy for finally receiving a family that knew would love him and his brother forever.

Mark and James’s story continues a quarterly series from Tabor Children’s Services. Our Success Stories series is an additional way we are communicating with our friends and donors about the agency’s social work efforts. Each quarter we feature one of our programs and the inspiring story of a child, youth or family with children whom the program has helped. To add your address to the Success Stories email list, please contact apchelka@tabor.org.

Success Story: Mea

Mea’s story continues a quarterly series from Tabor Children’s Services. Our Success Stories series is an additional way we are communicating with our friends and donors about the agency’s social work efforts. Each quarter we feature one of our programs and the inspiring story of a child, youth or familywith children whom the program has helped. To add your address to the Success Stories email list, please contact apchelka@tabor.org.

Tabor Helps Mea Succeed
Mea, a 7-year-old girl, with two younger siblings, was removed from her birth family because of substance abuse in their home. In her short life she had already experienced neglect, abuse and post-traumatic stress (as witness of a crime). For the first year of her foster care placement, Tabor staff endeavored without success to guide the birth family to make a safe home. Then her behaviors hampered Tabor’s initial attempt to arrange for her adoption. When Mea’s foster family adopted her siblings, Mea was not included.”My dream,” Mea recalls, “was to be adopted or at least to have a parent and family without having to be moved around from house to house in the foster care system.”

When Mea’s first adoption disrupted, Tabor’s treatment foster care staff relocated her to another foster home and worked diligently to help her overcome problematic behaviors. Meanwhile, Tabor’s adoption unit recognized that the disruption in Mea’s home placement increased her risk for lingering in the foster care system. Her placement dilemma was significant enough that Mea was brought to the attention of the nationally-known Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the child-specific recruitment of its Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. Mea recalls that when her Tabor worker said, “it was time to look for a forever family…I told her that I wanted a mother and sisters that were smart and able to love and take care of me.”

During Tabor’s celebration of National Adoption Month in November 2006, Mrs. E. (already a Tabor adoptive parent) saw Mea’s picture and returned shortly afterward to view a PowerPoint presentation on this “waiting child.” The young lady’s unfortunate story and her sad eyes led Mrs. E. to declare her commitment to adopt Mea. With regular therapy and with support from Mrs. E. and her three other daughters, Mea found the stability she needed. Her adoption was finalized in June 2008.

Mea enjoys her new life, takes music lessons, and is an honor roll student. She wants to become a lawyer, and Mrs. E. states, “as her mother, I hope to see her reach that goal.”

In July of 2008 the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN) honored Mrs. E. for outstanding permanency services to children and families in the Pennsylvania child welfare system. Mea and her sisters were present during the banquet and began to cry with joy as their mother took the stage. Through their tears the girls could be heard saying: “She deserves every bit of the honor.”

Mea believes that on the day of her adoption finalization, “I was reborn to a glorious new family.” Tabor social workers are delighted to see that the light of this beautiful, charming young lady, now with her forever family, is shining brightly indeed.