At just 18 years old, Genesis has lived in more homes than most people do in a lifetime. She has had a tough life, having lived in eight (8) foster homes in Newark, Irvington, Teaneck, and a few other cities before ending up in Westfield, New Jersey.
“I was very difficult to deal with and had to move constantly because of my behavior. Foster parents just couldn’t take me,” exclaimed Genesis when recalling how each of her homes didn’t work out. As a child, she had a tough time adjusting and she had a reason. Coming from an abusive home will do that to a child. She was physically, mentally and sexually abused until she was finally taken away from her home and placed into foster care.
According to the State of New Jersey, Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), there were over 7,300 children ages 2 – 18 years old in foster care homes.
Genesis recalls, “I got kicked out of schools because of my behavior. I just couldn’t adjust and deal with the emotions that plagued my life.” She remembers many fights and the very difficult times she would constantly give her teachers. According to Genesis, so many adults failed her. They didn’t keep their promises, or just conjured up empty and meaningless words. To her, this meant she couldn’t count on any caring adult to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, her experience is not uncommon among foster care youth. In a study by Chapin Hall Institute (source: http://www.chapinhall.org/sites/default/files/CS_97.pdf), each year, 20,000 adolescents leave the foster care system and attempt to live independently (GAO, 1999). Foster youth are compounded by being at risk because they spend some time growing up in families of origin that are typically “high risk,” such as growing up in poor communities, have families that lack economic and social resources, or live in large urban areas and are of ethnic minority status. In addition, they suffer from the consequences of abuse, and more commonly neglect, that led to their removal from home. In some cases, the system that is supposed to help them fails to adequately address their health, mental health, educational, employment, emotional, or other needs.
Fortunately Genesis found Independence: A Family of Services. There she enrolled in the Life Skills program, where she learned how to deal with her emotions and anger and overcome them. She was encouraged to participate in the many exercises that help students learn how to live life independently.
At IFS, the goal of the Life Skills program is to empower youth to become self-sufficient and break their cycle of child welfare involvement. Life Skills training provides daily and life survival skills instruction to youth who are aging out of out-of-home placement. To accomplish this goal, IFS provides assessment, life skills instruction, case management, transportation, and cultural and recreational activities. The topics covered in this program include career planning, communications, daily living skills, home life, housing and money management, self-care, work life, work and study skills, and social relationships.
In addition, IFS offers a myriad of supportive services such as career readiness where IFS helps prepare each participant to identify careers of interest, recognize and gain the skills needed to pursue their chosen career, and equip them with the necessary “soft skills” to search, gain and maintain meaningful employment. IFS also administers Chafee Funds to support and empower youth who are aging out of the DCP&P system to become self-sufficient. Youth can receive up to $4,000 over the duration of their participation in the program for general living and transitional support, which may include rent and security deposits, food, and tuition. Also, IFS provides Homelessness Prevention case management to youth as they leave residential care, and it continues for at least one year. The youth can come back to the program after that year for “booster shots” until the age of 21, which consist of case management, access to information, referrals, and Chafee Funds.
These days, Genesis is attending Kean University and is studying to be a Forensic Psychologist. She choose that field because she wanted to understand why people do what they do, and why they do things to other people. Her ultimate goal is to connect and help other children who have had similar experiences as to her own.
“At IFS, it was hard but I finally let go and learned to trust them. Once I did that they were able to really help me mature and learn skills I needed to take care of myself,” stated Genesis. “During my time there, I lost a close family member and at IFS I was able to grieve the loss with so much support from the staff and fellow youth. That made all the difference to me and really helped me.”
Genesis is currently living in Westfield, NJ and commuting to Kean.
After hearing her story, an IFS board member, Everett Johnson, stated, “you definitely have an aura about you and you are well on your way to success. We wish you well and I’m glad IFS played a small part in helping you grow and learn.”
For more information about IFS visit www.ifsnj.org or call 973-372-5601.