Elizabeth (Editor’s Note: name changed for privacy reasons) could have easily become another statistic: another girl with severe behavior issues, poor academic initiative, with no goals or aspirations, waiting to age-out of the foster care system facing a possible future of poverty, drug addiction, early parenthood and/or incarceration.
Thanks to Children’s Home Society’s residential facility, Hansen Center, Elizabeth is now a healthy, productive independent adult. While growing up in her mother’s home, Elizabeth experienced severe physical and sexual abuse due to her mother’s neglect while addicted to alcohol and drugs. Once removed from her mother’s custody, she was in and out of multiple foster care and group homes due to her behavior issues.
Elizabeth came to Hansen Center, a United Way partner, shortly before her 17th birthday after leaving another group home deemed ill-equipped to meet her needs. Academically she was more than a year behind her peers and had a history of truancy and school suspensions.
Elizabeth lived at Hansen Center, located in Sebring, for 15 months. She was provided a nurturing, stable home environment that included structure, rules and consequences for her actions. To help her heal from the trauma and rejection she had experienced, Elizabeth received intensive therapy services. From direct care and supervisory staff she learned daily living skills and was able to practice thoughtful decision making.
Through Elizabeth’s newfound ambition to attend college, both Hansen staff and community volunteers tutored her on a daily basis. As she gained more confidence in herself, she also joined extracurricular activities at school. Becoming her second family, Hansen staff accompanied Elizabeth to many school functions, took her to a statewide conference on independent living readiness and assisted her with college applications.
As Elizabeth began to feel more secure and confident, her behavior problems all but disappeared and she flourished academically. On her 18th birthday Elizabeth moved into her own apartment and continued attending high school until graduation. She is now a college freshman excelling in her course work, making responsible decisions and looking ahead with confidence toward a brighter future.
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