Samantha: A Safe Place
“Growing up in the foster care system was tough,” says 21-year-old Samantha. “I spent almost all of my life in the child welfare system and away from my family,” she says, adding that she didn’t always feel like she was a part of the foster families she lived with.
Samantha • former Generations II resident
Like many children who have been displaced from their families, she faced challenges. She had a hard time concentrating in school and didn’t perform well academically. “My teachers would get angry that I didn’t turn in assignments because I didn’t understand them. They didn’t know what I was going through back at home,” she says.
Today Samantha and her five-year-old son live in their own two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia. For two years before accomplishing her goal of securing permanent housing, Samantha and her son were residents in Northern Children’s Services mother and baby program, Generations II. “It was more stable and safe than anywhere else my son and I could have gone,” she says of Northern. “The staff were really helpful in talking to me when I needed someone to talk to and making me and my son feel comfortable in our home there.”
Determined to make positive changes not just in her own life, but in the lives of others, Samantha is a youth advocate for the Juvenile Law Center. “As a youth advocate, I talk and write about my personal experiences in the child welfare system to lawyers, judges and other people who work in the foster care system,” Samantha says. Writing about her various experiences—such as not having her mother around, a fire that occurred in her foster home, and being separated from her siblings—is something that she started doing in junior high school at the encouragement of one of her teachers.
Samantha says she shares her experiences with the policymakers so that they know what foster care is really like—the things she feels work well and things that can be improved—so that other young people do not have to go through what she experienced. “By speaking out and talking about my experiences, I feel like I have the power to change things,” she says.
She also openly shares her experiences with other youth and supporters of Northern. Last year, Samantha spoke to a group of young children from other Northern programs. “Don’t push people away who are trying to help you—bring them closer to you…No one is able to succeed on their own and we all need help some time…Remember to always ask for help!” she told them. She also spoke to a group of business women at Northern Children’s Services inaugural Women for Women breakfast, sharing her story of trials, transitions and triumphs.
“I’m so proud of Samantha,” says Nichole V. Spain, her Life Skills Case Manager. “Although, initially at times she had feelings of nervousness with this upcoming chapter in her life, she was able to eventually trust me and started working on the most important aspect of her completing the program—true self-sufficiency and independence,” she says. “You have to work and work hard for your needs and desire no matter what your life story was or is; because everyone has a story,” Spain tells the young mothers in the Generations programs.
With the help, care, support and nurturing environment of Northern Children’s Services’ Generations program—coupled with her own will and determination—Samantha and her son have a much brighter future ahead.