Friday, May 27, 2016
Below is a speech by Donaisha, a former foster youth who spoke at our May 21, 2016 gala.
A couple of weeks ago was Mother’s Day, a day to honor those who bring us into this world. No one can ever replace mom, despite life’s journeys.
For people like me, mother’s day is tough. I love my mom, but, for the majority of my life, she was not able to be there, leaving a big hole in my and my brothers’ lives.
I am the youngest of three children. My mom was a single mother. She worked very hard to make sure that my brothers and I were happy and had everything we needed and wanted. I have very happy memories of family nights, playing games. We were very close.
My mom was also strict. She made us do our homework before we went out to play. She expected us to do well in school; if we did not earn A’s or B’s there were consequences. I knew that school and education were important; I dreamed of attending Spelman College and becoming a pediatrician.
Being a single mother is difficult. There were times when we did not have a place to live. There were times when we were separated from her and had to live with friends or other relatives. Yet, despite the instability, she was there for us and provided a deep sense of love and connection.
Things began to change towards the end of elementary school. My mother had fought addiction for years, but it began to be more of a struggle. She became distant. She stayed away from home for longer periods of time.
When I was 12, my brothers and I were taken to the Children’s Shelter. We were separated into different foster homes.
I was lucky, I went to live with a foster mother who knew my mother. She was very supportive of me and my family. Yet, despite the fact that the house was filled with other girls, I felt very alone. I missed my mother and my brothers. I had difficulty concentrating in school, became depressed. I felt like giving up. I was prescribed Prozac, it did not help.
I met my CASA, Nicole, when she began advocating for my brother Blake. After a while she began to work with my brother Asa, then with me. She understood the importance of family for us. She helped us get together and helped us visit our mother. The fact that she was a volunteer meant that she was there for us, not because she had to be there.
Nicole met me with open arms. She provided voice for me. She provided a safe space, a sense of calm and stability. There were many times when I felt overwhelmed; she would help me find focus. Sometimes all she did was take me to Starbucks for a quiet half hour of homework, but it made all the difference in the world.
Nicole rooted me on. She brought back my hope. When I was down, she was my cheerleader. When I thought that I Could Not, she let me see that I Could. She advocated for me at school and helped me make up credits so that I could graduate on time. She helped me fill out college applications and apply for scholarships. She guided and encouraged me as I started Ohlone College and supported me when I decided that it was not a good match for me. She helped me transfer to DeAnza college.
Nicole has been a part of my life for over nine years. At this point she is family. Aunt Nicole is always there – if I need a pep talk, a reality check, she is just a phone call or text away. I have seen Child Advocates’ mission: Provide stability and hope to children who have experienced abuse and neglect by being a powerful voice in their lives.
I am testament to the mission. With Nicole’s voice amplifying mine, I have a good relationship with my mother and brothers. I completed high school on time, and have been working as a residential assistant in a nursing home since I graduated from high school, as I have pursued my college degree. Child Advocates’ vision statement is that every child has a positive view of the future and the opportunity to become a productive, healthy adult. Nicole helped me regain a positive view of the future.
Thank you Child Advocates for bringing people like Nicole into the lives of children who have lost that which is most important to them, a sense of security and family. Thank you for providing that one-on-one support that every child needs.
Thank you Nicole – I can never thank you enough for what you have done for me and my family. Oh, and by the way, the little girl who wanted to be a pediatrician is studying Nursing at Spelman.