From Foster Care to Social Worker-One woman's story
Every now and again we highlight an extraordinary former foster youth that has overcome unimaginable obstacles. Here's Stephanie's Story:
- Can you tell me how many years you were in fostercare?
I was in foster care from age 15-18. I lived in a group home at SOS Children’s Village. It was a 5-bedroom home. I lived with various house parents and roommates throughout my time there.
- Tell me about your experience in high school?
I was able to stay enrolled at one high school. I was involved in several sports including cross country, track, wrestling, and JROTC and SOS Children’s Village arranged for transportation to and from school.
- Tell me about you today? How are things going?
I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree in social work and was recently accepted into FAU’S Advanced Standing Master of Social Work program. It is a fast track program that will allow me to graduate in a year (next May). I did not have a real graduation this year because of the pandemic. SOS Children’s Village hosted a virtual graduation and ChildNet introduced me to Selfless Love Foundation where another virtual graduation will take place on June 19th.
- Why Social Work?
I chose social work because when I was in foster care, I had many different people advocating on my behalf. I was always grateful for the support, but I always wondered if they truly understood what I was going through.
I am proud of myself. All of my hard work finally paid off. I did not let my past define me!
- Is there anything else you would like to share?
ChildNet has made a huge impact on my life. They gave me a voice when I was in care and then helped me transition into independent living. I would have been lost without their support. I was able to get through college and find an apartment because of their encouragement and the resources they introduced me to. The workers are passionate about what they do. They treat their clients like family.
When I was in foster care, I had one advocate that I will never forget. Her name is Erin Olbricht. She was kind, brave, and always empathetic. She always took the time to listen to what I had to say and tried her best to understand how I was feeling. She was able to help me relieve all of the stress and anxiety I felt each time we attended court together and had to see my abusive father there. She made me feel safe. She is the one who inspired me to work in child welfare and to pursue my master’s degree. Erin is everything that I hope to be during my career as a social worker.
Maleah Bourda is another worker that I am immensely grateful for. I began working with her after I aged out of foster care and I currently work with her now. Maleah knows all about my experience in foster care and she does a great job of treating me like an adult and not some type of victim.
- Going back to your time in foster care.... Why is it so important for children in care to have a loving foster home, and a support system once they age out of foster care?
It is important for children in care to have a support system when they age out of foster care because it is easy to get lost in the world. Having a good head on your shoulders does not always ensure that you will make the best decisions for yourself. Also, there are many fears that can consume a foster child and a major one is feeling alone. It is nice to have people to depend on especially ones that understand the reality of your situation.
- Do you have a message for youth still in care?
Your past does not define you! Use it as motivation to do better for yourself. Also, when times get tough try to remember that you are not alone. There are resources and social workers out there who are devoted to making life easier for you.