Client Spotlight - Merissa

The brilliant and insightful author and activist, Maya Angelou, once said, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” As professionals who work in the field of foster care, we likely know the truth and importance of this quote and the resilience it represents. Though our work is, at times, punctuated by challenges, discouragements, and road blocks, there are many successes that keep us in the ring for another round. Recently, EA supported a youth in her transition out of care, and her story is one of those impactful successes. Her efforts to build a new life for herself and willingness to bravely choose vulnerability when self-preservation would have been easier, speak to her determination to re-write her own story rather than allowing her past experiences determine her future.

Merissa recently turned 21 years old and emancipated from foster care after participating in EA’s THP+FC for a year and a half. She entered the program pregnant with her first child and without a safe and stable place to live. Merissa quickly engaged in the program requirements and slowly began opening up to her EA Social Worker and County Social Worker. Through the process of building trust and learning to accept help, Merissa collaborated with her team to develop attainable goals to invest in her future. She gave birth to a son and has become a caring, attentive, and motivated mother. In spite of her determination to engage in the program and pave a new path for herself and her son, Merissa did encounter challenges. According to Merissa, most people in her life struggled with substance use in some way, and she was in a relationship plagued by domestic violence for a time. Going through these experiences motivated Merissa to ensure she did not put herself in future predicaments. In a recent conversation about her transition out of care, Merissa stated, “Now that I see how those things will affect my son, I’m motivated to not be involved with them.” Reflecting upon her experience with domestic violence, Merissa stated, “I came to a point in that relationship where I realized it was not me and I was not bringing it upon myself. This is an outlook I would hope helps people realize it’s not them.”

Now that Merissa has completed her THP+FC participation and taken a step further into adulthood, she recognizes the benefit of social support and wishes to establish new supportive relationships. Merissa recently had some time to reflect on her experience with EA and shared some insights she gained in a recent conversation with her EA Social Worker. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.

Tell us about yourself! What do you enjoy doing, how do you spend your time, what is something you're passionate about?
“I am a motivated mother who enjoys spending time with her son and working. We enjoy going to the park, grocery shopping, and at work I enjoy being part of a very good team that all have the same goal at the end of the day. I enjoy saving animals. All of my life I’ve loved animals. At times I’ve had horses and dogs, so it feels like my calling. I’m passionate about being the best mother I can be.”

What is one thing you hope to continue learning or working on now that you've completed the program?
“I hope to continue to become a more successful adult, given the opportunities the THP provided. Without this program I would not be where I am today…I probably wouldn’t even have my son. Learning to be motivated without having the EA support system, and having to rely on myself has been my motivation…and having my little person to rely on me.”

What strengths have you utilized to achieve your goals?
“My healthy mindset...motivation is key.”

What do you wish service providers working in foster care knew?
“Take the time to see how that [foster youth] is talking and understand the situation they’re in…reading between the lines. [My workers] accepted my mistakes as not mistakes but saw them as life lessons.”

Where do you hope to be in the next five years?
“Own my own home, continue working and being the best mom I can be…continue an education.”

What is something you learned in the THP that you hope to carry with you into your next chapter?
“Acceptance of myself…not looking at my mistakes as mistakes, but as life lessons. Accepting myself as a mother. With the help and motivation of my workers, I had a better outlook on life and could see myself as a good mother.”

If you could give a new THP participant advice, what would you say to them?
“Accept the help. I wasn’t very good at accepting that you guys were there to help.
Opening up is the right thing. Accept all of the goals and take it not as criticism, but a challenge to be a better person. You’re not what you’re born into, you can totally change the cycle.”