I interviewed a lovely young woman for our local newspaper as she was about to age out of the foster care program in Florida. Jacquelin was not new to the foster care system. Having entered foster care at the age of 15, joining her special foster family, this 18-year-old knew the ropes. She needed guidance, love, and positive adult role models in her life, and her new family met those needs. Soon, not only her foster family, but all the other adults in her life saw the results of sowing healthy seed into the life of a foster child.
As a senior at a local high school, she prepared to attend the University of North Florida in the fall. With strong skills in many areas, declaring a major was a ways off. Participation in the culinary classes offered at the high school helped hone her skills as a cook. Her culinary proficiency was put to good use early on. At age 16, she managed the kitchen at a Baptist summer church camp. Being in charge of shopping and cooking for 100-200 people, she had more knowledge of commercial kitchen responsibilities than most young adults.
Jacquelin was eager to help other children in the foster care system and was chosen by a board of advisers at the Department of Children and Families to participate in the Youth Leadership Academy. These adults relied on Jacquelin to tell them what was needed within the system – from the foster child’s perspective.
As a member of the first class of the Youth Leadership Academy, Jacqueline went to Tallahassee, visited the Supreme Court, met Justices, and visited the House of Representatives and the Senate. They met key decision makers and asked for changes in the system. “Our group project is normalcy,” Jacqueline said, citing the difficulty for foster children to spend the night at a friend’s house, go to the movies, or get a driver’s license.
“Jacquelin has always had a relationship with God,” said her foster mom. “She implements faith in everything from the past to the future, and even in that hard word – forgiveness.” At the age of seven, Jacquelin had walked to church alone, was baptized alone, and continued to seek God throughout her life. She joined Words to Works Ministry where block parties were used for outreach. Members played with kids in at-risk neighborhoods, shared food, games, and toys while telling of the love of Jesus Christ. Jacquelin’s participation in this ministry allowed her love to spill out to children.
She especially wants to be a positive role model for other foster children. “It’s hard at first,” she said. “You want to blame someone. But you have to look to the future and not to the past. You have the power to change your life; it’s up to you. You may have had a hard childhood but you don’t have to have a bad adulthood.”
Through her mentors at church, the Youth Leadership Academy, and Independent Living sponsors, she has learned to make adult relationships and not just peer relationships. “Jacquelin is such a delight to everyone who meets her,” her foster mother said. “People can’t image having a teenager for a foster child. They can’t imagine loving someone who has been alive for 15 years. People are so scared of older foster children. They think they’re in the system because of delinquency. [But] something was done wrong to that child.”
Her foster mother was crying as she explained that even older foster children benefit greatly from being fostered. She said that Jacquelin still “needs a mom and dad all through her life. She needs parents through graduation. She needs a dad to walk her down the aisle. She needs a mom when she has her first baby. . . . There are different seasons in life. Now might be the right time. ‘Life is but a breath’ the Bible says. This is our chance to make a difference in the life of a child. These kids need a role model to show what good parenting is. They need to have their childhood restored.”
Jacquelin agreed, “Foster kids aren’t bad people. . . . Don’t be afraid. Open your heart. Open your home. You’ll only be blessed.”
While Jacquelin may not know what her college major will be, she is certain of one thing. Someday she will be a foster mother, to give back and let her love flow.
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We are partnering with Danielle at Providential Living again for a summer online Bible study! It’s free!