It was in March of 2016 when Maritza Morales met 13-year-old Naiomy and 15-year-old Gabriela. The sisters were part of the Milford based Boys & Girls Village (BGV) Therapeutic Foster Care program—a program that has successfully matched qualified foster parents with vulnerable children throughout the state for more than 75 years. Since being placed with Morales, the girls have begun to thrive in school, have been exposed to many new experiences and are looking forward to a bright, hopeful future.
Morales was one of the foster parents celebrated during Foster Care Month which is in May. An appreciation dinner for them was held recently at the Racebrook Country Club in Orange, Connecticut. “This celebration is a tribute to show our appreciation to the families that dedicate their lives to nurture our most vulnerable children,” explains Yvette Wooten, director of foster care services at BGV. “We have support groups that meet monthly for both families and foster children, monthly trainings, interactive summer activities and a retention cookout each year to name a few more [celebratory activities].”
Morales, a Hartford native, is an exemplary foster parent said Wooten. Naiomy and Gabriela (Gabby) have lived with her now for a little over two years. Morales says that when she first met the girls they were scared and uneasy, as it was their first time ever being in a foster home. She further recalls, “They were looking for stability and a safe haven. They had missed over 65 days of school and were not having a promising future.” Morales was intent on changing all of that.
A family member of Morales initially recruited her for a foster parent role, as they believed she would be the perfect person to provide vulnerable children with a caring, nurturing and stable home environment. They couldn’t have been more right.
“I love making a difference in [children’s] lives and showing them a positive way of living,” says Morales. “Taking and doing some ‘firsts’ with them. Such as celebrating their birthdays, holidays, vacations and other things as simple as going out to a restaurant. Seeing the expression on their faces as they make new memories is priceless!”
Her efforts have made a great impact on Naiomy and Gabby. They speak of how “she has been an angel to us,” and how she “goes out of her way to give us everything that we need.”
Naiomy says the whole experience of foster care has changed her life: “I have matured and I understand what a family really is. I have succeeded in school and have set my goals.” Gabby says she feels the same way, adding, “Foster care has showed me how having a family feels like. How to be a child again. How to feel loved and cared for.”
The girls entered therapeutic foster care through BGV after Naiomy reported to her school therapist that they were in an unsafe environment. This is a common way for children to enter Therapeutic Foster Care. Many children that enter this type of care have a history of abuse and neglect. They can struggle from a number of issues including emotional, learning and behavioral problems. Learning to overcome these issues can be seemingly insurmountable without the proper dedicated guidance and care.
Morales says that the girls were unmotivated when they first came to stay with her. She says that there are many challenges in being a foster parent such as “setting rules and boundaries with them and trying to guide them to change their ways by seeing things differently then what they are used to,” she adds that “seeing them sad and struggling because they miss their biological family is also a challenge.”
The girls contend that, yes, they have had their ups and downs transitioning into foster care. Naiomy explains that the “hardest part about being in foster care [for me] was definitely having to adjust into a home that wasn’t ours, and living with people we had never met before. It was a challenge, but it has turned out pretty good. Also, being away from home was hard, but honestly it was actually the best thing for us; the environment was way too much back home, we both weren’t safe or healthy.”
Gabby talks of her own challenges adjusting to the change, saying that one of the hardest parts was telling people she was in foster car,e as well as learning to trust somebody that she hadn’t ever met. However, Naiomy says that despite the challenges, “at the end of the day we love [Morales] dearly and appreciate everything she has done for us.”
Morales says the girls have grown tremendously and “are personable, caring, respectful and motivated and seem to have a better outlook on life. They are both honor students and doing very well in school. Even though Naiomy became a young mom at the age of 16, her future looks very bright.”
Morales has been a foster parent for more than 10 years, has fostered eight girls and says she intends to continue to foster as long as she is able. She has high hopes for Naiomy and Gabby, as she has for all those she fosters. She says she hopes they “do well and excel in school, graduate, go to college and become self-sufficient, providing a good home for their future families.”
To learn more about Foster & Adoptive care, please visit: https://www.bgvillage.org/programs/permanency-planning/foster-and-adoptive-care/