Posted tagged ‘aged out’

Mama Gwen Loves All The Homeless Children

July 2, 2008

STORIES FROM CARE GIVERS OF HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Gwendolyn Ross – Mama Gwen – Career Development Specialist – Covenant House New Jersey – Crisis Center

Everyone loves Mama Gwen. Former foster children, runaways, drug addicts, homeless kids, case workers, office staff, it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone loves Mama Gwen.

“Since I’ve been here,  I’ve been here eight years, and the students gave me a new name. They call me Mama Gwen.

I’ve asked some of them (homeless kids taken in at Covenant House) why do you wanna call me Mama Gwen?”

The students are quick to answer.

“Mama Gwen, you can take the place of a mother to us.

A lot of people never had a mother figure in their life and people see you as
that person. I’ve grown to know you and have major respect for you. You treat me just as my mother would treat me, with respect. I honor you. Like I really do bow down to you. You are Mama Gwen, you deserve that name.

You show love to everybody,” one of the girls said.

Mama Gwen greets everyone she passes by but make no mistake about it, Mama Gwen’s no push over. Tell Mama Gwen the truth and all will be good. Lie to Mama Gwen and she’ll call you into line. She’s there to help the kids, help them find employment, follow up when they don’t show up for work, teach them how to dress for an interview, build their self respect and that’s only the beginning of what Mama Gwen does for these kids.

“Yes we’re here to teach job readiness skills but most important are life skills, how you can survive out there. Social skills, how you can take directives from your employer because sometimes we’re so angry inside we don’t even want to hear the employer tell us ok, right now you’re not busy so we need you to go over there and sweep.” She belts out a big, “SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP, what you talking about sweep? I didn’t get hired to sweep no floors!”, mimicking the kids.

“I really wanted a lot of kids but I only had one. But I didn’t know that there was a plan that I would have 45. So I have a lot of kids in this world and we are all family. That’s how we work together. Family have to reach out to one another and help each other grow and develop. Don’t you think you can’t teach me,” she says lovingly.

Jamillah, Aged Out, Homeless, Unwed – Raphael’s Life House

June 18, 2008

Made my first trip to Raphael’s Life House, transitional housing for homeless, pregnant women and their babies.

http://www.raphaelslifehouse.org/

MEET Jamillah Williams and her three month old son, who has been living at Raphael’s Life House for several months.

Former foster child, aged out and homeless, now living at Raphael\'s Life House

According to Jamillah:

  • Her father sexually and physically abused her from age 5 to age 16
  • At age 16 she went to the social worker at her high school and told her story about her father’s abusive relationship. The worker called police/dyfs who took Jamillah and subsequently her two siblings and put them in dyfs custody
  • Says her father was an unregistered sexual predator who is currently in jail
  • Her biological mother is living in a shelter with her younger sister and her brother is living in a separate shelter

She’s unclear as to whether she was ever “legally free” for adoption. She “aged out” of foster care although has not signed herself out of the dyfs system ensuring her services until she’s 21 years old.

She seems to be advocating for herself in terms of receiving services. She has a CASA – court appointed special advocate – who she calls for legal advice but says that no dyfs worker has ever advised her as to any service or assistance that might be available to her.

One of the really interesting parts of the three hour audio taped interview was learning about how foster and homeless kids communicate with each other. My Space seems to be a lifeline. They used it to keep in touch with biological family members as well as other foster kids they meet as they move from home to home. Somehow they seem to always have internet access and utilized My Space as a way of updating each other.

Many also have cell phones cards with minutes to use the phone since they have no credit and cannot get an account.

I need to explore the whole idea of using My Space to track each other.