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Amelia

For Amelia, the youngest of four siblings, trouble began when she was about 16 years old.  “We were living with a family friend in Floral Park, and my mother’s friend discovered my mother's used needles in her bedroom. Shortly afterward my mother was kicked out of the home. My siblings and I continued to live with the friend until CPS got involved, and we were placed with other family members. This caused much conflict in our difficult situation. Due to fighting and behavioral issues, my siblings and I were separated."

The Journey Begins

For nine months Amelia stayed at Mercy First Diagnostic Group Home. Later she was placed at Hope For Youth Diagnostic as mandated by the court for behavioral issues. While in Diagnostic at HFY, Amelia received individual counseling through HFY preventive services. During counseling, Amelia began to accept guidance and formulated short-term and long-term goals. Through counseling she gained the support to achieve the goals set during her weekly sessions.

Later, Amelia was strategically placed into a Hope For Youth Therapeutic Foster Home that satisfied her personal needs. She received secure supervision and a supportive environment where she attended weekly meetings with peers who were in similar situations. This gave Amelia an opportunity to work on life skills and skill building activities. Amelia's main goal was to live independently and succeed. While in foster care Amelia continued to attend therapy and group counseling with other teenage girls and learned about abuse, relationships and how to stay protected.

When Amelia met Ms. Henderson her life changed drastically. “I was basically on my own,” Amelia states. At the time Ms. Henderson was a single mother raising two daughters of her own. This did not keep Ms. Henderson from treating Amelia like she was one of her own children. For over a year Ms. Henderson encouraged Amelia to focus on school and maintain straight As while working part-time at Target.

“Ms. Henderson was hands-on,” Amelia explained as she discussed her past experience. Ms. Henderson always questioned Amelia regarding where she was going, what time she would be home and asked Amelia to let her know if her social plans changed. Amelia was given rules and the opportunity to show that she was responsible and could be trusted. This also prepared Amelia for her goal of being able to live independently and achieve success. “She taught me not to leave a mess behind,” and that “everything has a spot.” Throughout Amelia’s experience in therapeutic foster care, she discovered basic living skills that would guide her through the next chapter of her life.

After graduating from high school in Amityville, Amelia began her college career at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, NY. Ms. Henderson continued to guide Amelia through this transition. Following her first semester, Amelia was recognized by her caseworker for achieving the ability to live independently and was accepted into the SILP (Supervised Independent Living Program) program for young people ages 19 to 21. Amelia was placed in Elmont where she lived in her own community, a transitional experience for young people between foster care and living independently. Admission into the program requires that the young person received their high school diploma or GED and is working and going to school.

Through the program Amelia learned other skills essential for independent living. Amelia lived rent-free and was given $300 to get started and pay for basic needs such as soap and toothpaste. Focused on school and working two jobs, Amelia dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, inspired by Ann Marie Lucas an animal cop and supervisory special investigator for humane law enforcement on Animal Planet. 

Living, Learning and Teaching

When asked what advice she would give to youngsters in a similar situation, Amelia said, “Don’t wait around for things to be handed to you. No excuses!” Throughout her experiences, Amelia learned not to blame others for her circumstances. She explained the importance of giving a foster family the chance to help you and not to take frustrations out on them.

While building a positive environment and focusing on her goals, Amelia mended her relationship with her mother. After five years of not speaking, a family friend helped the mother and daughter reunite. “She was proud of me,” Amelia said.

In 2010, Amelia was selected to speak as a panelist at the MAPP training program, a program designed to train potential foster parents and raise their awareness of the skills needed to give love to troubled children. As a panelist, Amelia was asked to give advice to the parents on the best ways to treat children in foster care. “Treat them as your own,” Amelia shared with the group.

While living with Ms. Henderson, Amelia realized how a supportive mother figure could impact her life forever. After living on her own for over a year, Amelia stayed in contact with Ms. Henderson and knew that if she ever needed help, she could call. In the fall, when Amelia’s mother passed away, Amelia spent time with Ms. Henderson and counted on her love and support. “She’s somebody to go to when you have no one else.”

Now twenty-one, Amelia is working on completing her college degree and working as a veterinarian assistant at a veterinary hospital. She is inspired by her role model OTEP Shamaya, a lead singer and song writer of a band whose lyrics are positive and encourage young people to stay strong in tough situations. In the future, Amelia desires to have six children and would like to also become a foster mother.

After reading books by the author and inspirational speaker, Dave Pelzer, and learning how he survived childhood abuse and was placed in foster care, Amelia believes she will thrive as a foster mom.

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