Children and teens in foster youth are often spoken of in terms of statistics – 10,000 Missouri kids in foster care, the number aging out each year, those who are likely to be homeless or pregnant after leaving foster care, etc. – but they are real, live, one-of-a-kind kids with real stories to tell.
In foster homes throughout our community and here at Good Shepherd, foster youth are pursuing education, getting jobs, learning how to be responsible adults … all as they prepare to become members of permanent, safe and loving families. Their hopes and dreams are much the same as other kids’ and with the support of those who truly care, they are doing much more than mere statistics would indicate.
JULEE, an 8th grade resident at Good Shepherd, has been offered a full four-year scholarship to St. Joseph’s Academy! Julee has been academically sound since her first day at Good Shepherd. She has earned A’s and B’s in her elementary school with the support of our Education staff and always behaves as a model student. Julee has also maintained a viable relationship with her siblings and participated in family therapy. She shows that hard work toward the goals of the individual plan she developed with her counselor really can result in the reward of a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Julee continues to work with her Family Support team to complete her education objectives.
MITCHELL, a 13-year old, shows what Good Shepherd strives for every day in connecting children with families and keeping families connected. Mitchell has been in foster care for several years. He was recently reconnected with his paternal grandmother and great aunt. He has been able to visit with them on weekends. This renewed connection in his life has made a significant positive difference in his behavior. Mitchell’s grandmother has become an important part of his support team and partners with Good Shepherd professionals to reinforce improvements in his interaction behavior. Strengthening families, like Mitchell’s, is all in a day’s work at Good Shepherd.
DONNA, one of our residents, has met her challenge! Donna’s goal when she moved into Good Shepherd was to be reunited with her 10-month old twins. Her individual plan was to get stabilized on the female unit, enroll in school, continue weekly therapy and medication management, and attend parenting classes – all while still visiting with her twin boys. After only three weeks, Donna’s team decided she was ready to move back in with her twins at her stepfather’s home. The team feels Donna has accomplished what she set out to do. Instead of placing her on our maternity unit where she could continue to parent in a more restrictive environment, the team was able to get Donna’s mother involved in her support. Donna is now living at home with her twin boys and stepfather. It didn’t take long for Donna’s team to see that she was serious about her goal in keeping her boys in her custody.
JACOB is 19 years old and recently completed the vocational assessments that will provide guidance about the best jobs for him to pursue. His results indicated jobs in the computer field are a good fit and that was good news because Jacob is completing a degree in Information Systems at ITT Tech. We were worried about Jacob when his grandfather passed away recently. But with an opportunity to deal with his grief constructively, he is coping with the loss and doing well.
Jacob had minimal independent living skills when he came to Good Shepherd just over a year ago. Today he takes the bus to school, home visits and appointments. He’s also learning to manage his money. Success is measured in Jacob’s ability to do more and more on his own, with less supervision from staff. Jacob may be moving back with his mother soon. If that doesn’t work out, Jacob will move into an independent living program. In his time at Good Shepherd Children & Family Services, Jacob’s self esteem has grown considerably – he’s proud of himself and we’re all proud of him.
KARRIE is 17 years old and struggling to overcome the negative image of herself she acquired after years of abuse and neglect. After almost a year of regular therapy, she is beginning to see herself and her future more positively.
Her goal is emancipation from foster care but we’re hoping for her to go to a transitional program where she’ll have some support before leaving foster care. A plan is in place for her to complete her GED and she is in the process of trying to find a job. Karrie’s case illustrates the need for flexibility and working side-by-side with each resident to help them create their future. With the benefit of one-on-one attention to her unique needs, therapy and educational support, Karrie is on her way to a life she could not have imagined a year ago.
DAVID was in a foster home before coming to Good Shepherd. Within days of his arrival, staff immediately detected post-traumatic stress and anger tied to the murder of his mother a few years ago. As his father struggled with alcohol recovery, David embraced therapy and began to see that it was possible to be happy again.
In his time at Good Shepherd, David was reconnected with his maternal grandfather, a loving man who showed him acceptance and understanding during regular visits. David began going to school, participated in ROTC, and learned to take responsibility for his own behaviors. With the help of staff, he’s learned that it’s okay to show his emotions.
David has plans to start his own business installing sound systems and already has business cards! He has been reunited with his father and together, they participate in family therapy with David’s therapist at Good Shepherd. His father is still sober and they are re-defining their relationship. Where we can reconnect children with their biological family and know they are safe, we have achieved the ideal outcome.
MARTIN completed his high school education and developed independent living skills during his time at Good Shepherd. His achievements made it possible to attain employment with Schnucks Markets. Now, a year after entering an independent living program, he is still committed to doing his best in the job and is making plans for the future.
(Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients)