This winning story was submitted by Sherry Toney, Safe at Home Wraparound Facilitator for KVC West Virginia as part of our annual story contest.
17-year-old Michael had been in foster care for about a year when I started to work with him as his case manager. He struggled with anger issues and frequently refused to participate in therapy sessions. Michael felt that therapy wouldn’t make a difference and that he wasn’t good enough to go to college. At one point, Michael had not seen his father or his brothers in 6 months and had only spoken to them sporadically, and he was grieving the loss of his mother a few years prior. It was very difficult to tell this young man to find the positive when he felt like everything and everyone was against him.
The foster home Michael was staying in closed after a year and he was moved to another home, further adding to his distrust with those around him. I had worked on trying to get Michael to see potential in himself, build up trust and show him how to become more self-sufficient in life skills. I would always use positive praise with Michael, which gradually resulted in him changing the way he described himself and his future.
When he entered the new foster home, Michael was greeted with smiles, encouragement and people eager to work with his behavior needs. During this time, Michael learned that he had family on his mother’s side. He was able to reach out to them and, with the help of his KVC-support team and foster parents, reconnected with his maternal grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins. He had found a support group that he never realized that he had.
By the time Michael was released back into his father’s care last summer, he had received awards for Most Improved Student, a Community Service Award, as well as multiple certificates for maintaining positive behavior. This was a big improvement from the teen who refused to participate in any aspect of treatment just a few months prior.
During the course of the summer, Michael found a part time job, started studying to get his driver’s license and learned valuable life skills to aid him in becoming a responsible adult. Michael’s new-found motivation was based on him wanting to pursue a life and an education that he previously didn’t think was possible.
Michael graduated from the Safe at Home program last August. He enrolled in high school with a Junior status, and he recently applied to the Universal Technical School in Florida. The first goal he is set on accomplishing is being the first in his family to graduate from high school.
His parting words to me were “Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t, and for helping me with finding my family.” I thanked him for allowing me to be a small part of his journey, and told him to always make sure to find the positive in every negative. His smile was all the thanks I would ever need.