Samantha is a vibrant, beautiful and intelligent 22-year-old young woman who had a difficult childhood.
She experienced constant sexual abuse by her biological father over the period of one year when she was just seven years old, a crime for which he is still incarcerated. She was removed from her home by Child Protective Services (CPS) just days before her 13th birthday after reporting that her uncle, who also lived in the home, was molesting her.
Her biological mother was generally unsupportive and unwilling to be protective of Samantha.
Entering into the CPS system already broken and confused, Samantha was shuffled to about 13 placements including foster homes, psychiatric hospitals, group homes, emergency shelters and residential treatment centers (as well as seven different schools) until she aged out of the system at 18.
Statistics tell us that by the time the average young woman ages out of foster care, 70% are pregnant. Samantha joined that group and gave birth to her child, Alijah Justice, on December 23 of last year. Experience also tells us a large majority of children born to foster care mothers — just like Alijah — will end up back in the very same CPS system.
Thankfully, Samantha has been able to take advantage of a newly developed program called Angel’s Nest, an extension of Angel Reach that serves pregnant and parenting girls who have aged out of foster care.
Angel’s Nest provided Samantha the support she wanted and needed to be a good mother. Due in large part to this program, she and Alijah have thrived and avoided becoming another statistic.
Angel’s Nest came about when Sandra Carpenter, the executive director and co-founder of Angel Reach, realized that young mothers and pregnant youth who had spent time in foster care needed a different type of support, one that allows them to recover from their own childhood trauma while providing an environment where they can learn trust and connection and focus on the mother-child relationship.
The residents live with their babies in a home dedicated to Angel’s Nest. The clients participate in the same transitional living programs as other Angel Reach clients, but they also attend child care and parenting classes.
The plan is for the program to be two-generational, with three to five years of support recommended by current research. This allows time for mothers to complete their education and/or obtain work experience to break the cycle of poverty.
A licensed professional counselor will be sure their emotional needs are addressed so they become engaged and empowered within the community. Emerging research supports the implementation of a developmental, relationship-based approach to support these youth as they develop into healthy, productive adults.
We are thankful to see such success in young adults like Samantha, who is currently working full time as an administrative assistant and is committed to continuing her professional growth to be able to provide the very best life possible for Alijah.
She is grateful for Angel’s Nest and the family unit she has developed with the people both there and at Angel Reach. She has seen examples of healthy relationships and parenting that she never saw as a child and is hopeful that she can apply those examples to be the mother to Alijah that she never had.
This story first originally appeared in The Point, August & September 2016 edition, issue 11.