This was the worst night for Shawn. He was at a shelter with mentally ill adults. He’d been here since he aged out of foster care. His group home staff said if he didn’t “get it together” he’d end up in a shelter. Here he was. Problem was he never knew how to “get it together.” No one had taught him how. He’d taken some classes but he hadn’t been able to pay attention. Ever since he saw his uncle get shot, he hadn’t been able to sit still in a classroom. Anytime it got too quiet, he’d feel like something bad was about to happen. He’d start antagonizing others or making sound effects. The teachers would send him out. They never asked him what was wrong.
At 5, Shawn went into foster care because his mom’s boyfriend was hitting his sister. His sister told her teacher. He hadn’t seen anyone in his family since. He didn’t remember much but knew he’d been in a bunch of homes. He never talks about it. He learned how to survive. Stealing or lying for food, he could do it. He mostly learned not to trust adults. They hurt you.
Another kid showed him where to get an application to the Transitional Housing Placement Plus Program (THP+). The staff there helped him fill it out and gave him a snack. That night, laying on his cot, he vowed that he would get his own spot.
Shawn applied to the Next Steps Collaborative, a partnership between BAYC and three other community-based organizations providing housing, mental health and other independent living supports to former foster youth. The process was hard. They made him come to all these meetings. He didn't have the money to take a bus. He walked. It took 2 hours. He attended classes. They taught him about how to live on his own. When he finished, Shawn felt proud of himself for the first time. Shawn was introduced to a BAYC clinician. He had to meet with her for an assessment; If that was what it took to get a place to live, he would do it. He scheduled a meeting. Someone in the shelter stole his wallet. He didn't have the money to get the bus so he missed that appointment. She called him and didn't get angry. She picked him up at the shelter.
Shawn had a surprising meeting. He told her all about foster care. The way she listened made him just let it out. All the stuff he had been afraid to tell anyone. She said she could support him with the housing process and with all his stress. Shawn thought that sounded okay.
It hasn't been easy for Shawn. He had a lot to learn. The staff's expectations were high. He wanted to give up. Some days he just stays in and sleeps. Then he remembers the shelter. Or his BAYC clinician calls him. She doesn't judge him. She gives him advice and ideas. He's never had someone on his side before. He just got accepted for an internship. They say he can get a job after he finishes it. He's going to do it.
Annahlisa is a 20 year old African-American single mother, and a young woman who has benefited from the continuum of care offered by BAYC. Annahlisa was first removed from her mother's care and placed into foster care at the age of 13. She had a history of arrest, time in juvenile hall as well as psychiatric hospitalizations because she was unable to control her emotions and behavior. After multiple group homes and a failed reunification with her mother, Annahlisa was placed in one of BAYC's residential programs for foster youth between the ages of fifteen and eighteen.
At BAYC, Annahlisa gained greater control over her feelings and verbally aggressive behavior, and received the support she needed to improve her time management and social skills. After six months, Annahlisa was accepted into BAYC's transitional housing program, called Real Alternatives For Adolescents (RAFA). Living independently in an apartment with a roommate was a difficult transition for Annahlisa. She had become used to the consistency and round the clock care of group home staff. She struggled with her time management, often not getting herself to school on time or at all, and not attending the required meetings for the program.
Gradually, with the help of BAYC staff, Annahlisa learned to take greater responsibility for herself and her behavior began to shift. Annahlisa embarked on a journey to improve her life, and she developed some clear career goals. Motivated by this new-found energy and focus, she began to attend school regularly, formed positive peer relationships, and accessed the RAFA staff regularly for emotional support. She also learned to use calendars regularly to help her with her time management skills.
At the age of 17, Annahlisa found out she was pregnant. At that time, the RAFA program could not accommodate parenting teens and she had to exit the program a few months later, though she maintained regular contact with the BAYC staff. A little more than a year later, as a new mother of a baby girl, Annahlisa graduated from high school and emancipated from the foster care system. As a former foster youth, Annahlisa was eligible to apply to BAYC's Supported Housing Program (SHP), her next step toward independence and adulthood.
Today, Annahlisa is living in her own apartment and is doing extremely well. She has a beautiful 20 month old daughter who is thriving, a stable job at Jamba Juice and she is attending Cal State East Bay's Nursing program. She also continues to receive weekly therapy at BAYC. With the support of BAYC, Annahlisa was able to tap into her own strengths and overcome the enormous challenges that life had presented her. She is living proof that, given the right resources and guidance, young people can turn their lives around and reach their goals.