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Wings prevention program helps pregnant teen finish high school

Eight months pregnant and living with her godmother, teenager Nasia realized quickly that finishing high school while pregnant was going to be a challenge.

Prior to living with her godmother, Nasia was sent to live with her maternal grandmother due to her biological mother’s substance abuse. When her grandmother passed away, Nasia came to live with her godmother, and it was her godmother who referred Nasia to the Chicago-based Wings prevention program.

One Hope United Wings services help new parents adjust to the responsibilities of parenthood. Targeted for new and expecting parents, Wings promotes positive parent-child interaction while working to enhance family functioning, build trusting relationships and teach problem-solving skills. The purpose of this service is to prevent child abuse and neglect.

One Hope United Case Manager Naima Normand, a neighbor of Nasia and her godmother, was assigned to work with Nasia on her parenting skills.

“Nasia is an avid reader who took great pride in learning about her baby’s development and increasing her knowledge during our home visits,” said Normand. “She was aware of the baby’s cues and followed them appropriately.”

Normand reported that Nasia adequately utilized resources such as Teen Parent Services and Illinois Action for Children to assist her with transportation, cash and child care in order to complete school and work. In the Wings program, Nasia was focused on the goals she and her case manager developed on the Individual Family Support Plan. Nasia was adamant about graduating from high school, getting her child fully potty trained, obtaining a job and finally, getting accepted into a four-year college. Naisa kept in constant contact with her caseworker and was available for each home-visiting appointment.

In school, Nasia was a proven leader. She worked on a leadership committee in which she put together a proposal for a girl’s leadership group for her school. In this group, she helped host etiquette classes for her classmates as well as spearhead community projects.

She focused on her goals and with the help of her support system, case manager and the Wings program, Nasia graduated on time in June 2009 from Youth Connections Alternative School.

Nasia is now attending Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she has obtained an off-campus apartment in order to ensure that she would be able to take her son Jarrett with her. She saved six months of rent from money she made through her after-school work and summer job working at IIT. Her next goal is to purchase a vehicle.

Please consider making a donation to the nonprofit prevention program, Wings, in honor of teens just like Nasia. Without generous donors like you, One Hope United would not be able to make a positive impact in your community. Donate Now — note Wings in the note section when donating online.

Jessica's story: Hope wins out for a forever family


In July 1996, Jessica’s mother left her in the care of an eleven-year-old cousin. The cousin physically abused two-year-old Jessica. An investigation into the incident revealed bruises and marks consistent with physical abuse.

Then on Sept. 27, 1996, the Florida Department of Children and Families received another report alleging inadequate supervision. Allegations of no caretaker present, bruises and welts on the child, and failure to protect inflicting harm were all verified by investigators.

On Nov. 25, 1996, Jessica’s already neglectful mother, who was addicted to crack cocaine, was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for suicidal ideation. While hospitalized, her mother allegedly left Jessica and her siblings with non-relatives who were unable to care for them properly. After an investigation into the whereabouts of the children, the case was closed with findings of inadequate supervision, and the children were removed from the mother’s custody and placed in foster care.

Jessica’s mother eventually left the facility and completed her case plan, so Jessica was returned to her mother’s custody. Within a week of returning to her mother’s care, DCF received another allegation of abuse.

On Dec. 19, 2000, a report was made to the Florida Abuse Registry alleging the mother’s paramour hit Jessica with a belt. Jessica reported that the mother’s paramour hung her over the top bunk bed by her neck and was choking her. Jessica was also subjected to sexual molestation by the mother’s paramour.

While Jessica’s siblings were reunified with their parents, Jessica was permanently separated from her family after nine traumatic years of on and off abuse. Jessica’s parents surrendered their parental rights.

Jessica faced many challenges in foster care. Although she understandably had therapeutic needs as a result of past abuse, she was a genuinely nice and caring girl. While in foster care, she had 24 case managers and 15 different living arrangements, including three failed adoptive placements, because she hadn’t been matched up with the right family for her. Jessica struggled to comprehend why her siblings were reunified, and she was still in foster care. She struggled with building relationships and trusting people, but with therapy and time, Jessica gradually overcame her challenges.

Jessica’s case came to One Hope United in Oct. 2004. Always friendly, grateful and nurturing to other children in the home, it was a surprise to all that Jessica was still in foster care at age 15 without a family to call her own. Statistics show that few families are willing to adopt older children and many of these children end up aging out of foster care at age 18.

Last summer, at age 15, it seemed like time might have run out for Jessica. Despite the facts, and her failed adoptions, Jessica never gave up hope on finding a forever family. And although her case plan goal was Independent Living, the OHU staff working with Jessica never gave up looking for potential families.

Across town from Jessica, OHU Adoptions Case Manager Stacey Greenberg was meeting with a family that had moved to Orlando from New York. Elba, the prospective adoptive parent, had adopted four children through the foster care system in New York, and now that they were grown she wanted to adopt again. She had lots of experience with older children including foster children, and Elba said she wanted to adopt a teenage girl. Stacey immediately thought of Jessica and told Elba she should introduce herself to her at the upcoming adoption event.

Elba and her family met Jessica at the adoption event at Sea World and immediately hit it off. Jessica quickly became best friends with Elba’s 18-year-old daughter, Franchesca. From that day on, Elba referred to Jessica as her daughter. Jessica visited with the family throughout the fall and winter and officially moved in mid-January. After the required 90-day placement period, Stacey and the OHU Adoptions Unit, including Jessica’s Adoption Case Manager Christina Narain, joined Jessica and her new family at the courthouse for her adoption finalization. Jessica was wearing a ring with her new last name and the date of her adoption finalization, and she wasn’t the only one teary-eyed when the judge granted the adoption.

Congratulations Jessica! We wish you all the best!

A tumultuous time line before finding a forever home

Jay, 16 going on 17, has spent the vast majority of his life in and out of foster care along with his five siblings. Jay, his two brothers and three sisters were initially removed from their mother on May 6, 1997, because of unsafe and unsanitary living conditions in the home. Upon entering the household, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) could not alleviate the safety and risk concerns due to verified findings of medical neglect and conditions hazardous to the health of the children.

On Aug. 15, 1997, against the recommendation of DCF, the court reunified Jay and two of his siblings with their mother.

A year later, Jay and his siblings once again, found themselves back in foster care after the children were exposed to domestic violence and physical abuse.

By April 19, 2000, the court terminated the parental rights of the mother and legal father.

And in 2001, the three sisters were adopted, leaving Jay and his brother behind in foster care. All hope was not lost for the brothers, as the two were placed with their maternal grandmother shortly after the girls’ adoption. But by 2005, the brothers were once again moved into a nonrelative placement after their grandmother fell very ill and could no longer care for them.

Hope seemed to be seriously waning for the brothers, when they were removed from the nonrelative placement due to physical abuse. The brothers were then thrown back into foster care.

In April 2007, Jay was placed in a One Hope United foster home with Nikki Ballou. The experienced foster mother noticed Jay was exhibiting problems with depression and anger and rightly so, after so many years of let downs. Then, the unlikely happened; Ms. Ballou and Jay began to bond.

With Ms. Ballou’s devoted presence in his life, Jay was able to overcome his struggles with depression and self esteem. Then, in Aug. 2008, a paternal cousin stepped forward and Jay was placed in that home with a goal to close permanent guardianship.

In Jan. 2009, despite his needs being met with the paternal cousin, Jay requested to be placed back in licensed foster care home of Ms. Ballou. Ms. Ballou was happy to have Jay back. He returned to her care on Jan. 16, 2009, with a goal to age out of foster care in her home, because Jay did not want to be adopted.

About six months ago, Jay finally started considering the idea of adoption after considering his future with no forever family, as he had lost most of his family members during his tumultuous youth in and out of foster care. Stephen Ryan, adoption case manager for One Hope United, and Shanda Moorman, Family Services of Metro Orlando and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiter, were relentless on encouraging Jay to never give up on the idea of finding his forever family.

In early Feb. 2010, after much encouragement from Stephen and Shanda, Jay, finally opened up about his true feelings and desires to be adopted by the woman that has shown him unconditional love and devotion, his foster mother, Ms. Ballou. So it was that at a Parent’s Night Out Adoption Recruitment event in late Feb. 2010, Jay talked to a room full of future adoptive parents. Jay spoke about his life in foster care, about being ripped apart from his siblings and about his struggle to accept being adopted.

Jay told the crowd, he changed his mind about being adopted, because he wants “someone to pick him up when he falls.”  Jay, who just wanted “to know that at 18 I have a family,” was officially adopted by his foster mother, Ms. Ballou, on March 31, 2010.

One Hope United received $5,000 grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

CHICAGO (Feb. 9, 2010)—One Hope United was recognized by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois with a $5,000 grant for its success in and continuance of its critical prevention programs for at-risk children and families in Lake and Cook Counties.

“We are proud to support One Hope United,” said Clarita Santos, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois director of community health initiatives. “Our mission is to promote the health and wellness of our members and our communities through accessible, cost-effective, quality health care. By supporting organizations like One Hope United, we are able to reach out to the people most in need.”

The funds from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will benefit both The Parent Group and Wings programs at One Hope United in both Lake and Cook Counties.

“Without the generous support of corporations such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we would not be able to fulfill our mission of protecting children and strengthening families,” said Joyce Heneberry, senior vice president at One Hope United. “In today’s economy, our programs are struggling with whether they will be able to operate the next day. Having corporations philanthropically support the advancement of the community through organizations such as One Hope United is critical to our at-risk neighbors surviving this economic turmoil.”

The Parent Group of One Hope United brings parents together with a profes­sional facilitator to sharpen their child-rearing skills. The voluntary service, provided free to parents thanks to generous funders such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, is designed to support parents and teach parenting skills. The ultimate goal of the program is to prevent child abuse and neglect. Groups meet weekly in English and Spanish. One Hope United accepts referrals from a variety of sources.

The Wings program of One Hope United serves to help new par­ents adjust to the responsibilities of parenthood. Targeted for new and expecting parents, Wings promotes positive parent-child interaction. It works to enhance family functioning, build trusting relationships and teach problem-solving skills. The purpose of this service is also to prevent child abuse and neglect. Wings is available to families from the prenatal period until the child reaches the age of 5, at no cost, thanks to donors like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. To inquire about the Wings program in Lake County please call, 847.245.6800 and for Cook County, please call 312.9495590.

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About One Hope United

One Hope United is a private human service organization dedicated to protecting children and strengthening families. One Hope United offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs. One Hope United also specializes in child welfare system management, reform, consultation and training. With principal offices in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Florida, One Hope United serves more than 15,000 children and their families across the country each year. For more information, visit www.onehopeunited.wpengine.com.

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