Throughout Ashlyn’s entire life, she encountered many difficult and painful challenges. She was born into a home situation of mental illness and domestic violence. Ashlyn’s mother left when she was only three years old and Ashlyn was raised by her father who did little to nurture her and more to nurture his gambling habit. “I spent many nights locked in the car in the casino parking lot as a child”. Her mother would enter her life and then leave again repeatedly and by age 11, Ashlyn was hanging with the wrong crowd, using drugs and running away from group homes and homeless shelters where she would stay with her mom.
DON'T TURN YOUR BACK
That’s when Voice For Children came into her life. She was homeless yet again but this time, Voices helped her find housing, they provided for tutoring so she could complete her GED and helped her with her legal struggles. Today Ashlyn feels as though she has been given a second chance. She is working at a restaurant and attends beauty school. She dreams of owning her own hair salon and being the first in her family to own a business so she can help them re-build their lives just as she is re-building hers. She also dreams of one day being able to be a financial supporter of Voices For Children and giving back to the organization that has done so much for her. “We are also the future of this community and Voices makes sure that kids like me know that we have the same worth as anyone else, they become your family and treat you the way a family would.”
Her advice for youth that are going through a similar situation than hers: “Always look for something more than attention, look for support and surround yourself with people you can look up to so you want to rise higher. That’s what Voices For Children is for me.”
“Foster care isn’t easy” says Brendan. “The system is very difficult to navigate, and it becomes very difficult for you to do the things you want or need to do”. Still, Brendan recognizes that despite everything he went through, some have gone through much worse than what he has. He believes that having a Guardian ad Litem makes a huge difference in the life of a child who feels as though they have no one. “When I first met my GAL, she gave me a SpongeBob toy that meant the world to me. Kids need GALS and the reason I chose to follow the guidance of Voices For Children is because I could see how much they care.”
Thanks to that guidance by the caring team at Voices, today, Brendan has completed his GED and is attending college.
Not long ago, Brendan was a young man who had seen a very difficult life. He was flat broke and living in his car after yet another argument with his mother. His relationship with her had always been strained and that caused Brendan to move in and out of foster care. His life was always challenging and lacking in the love and support that most youth his age experience. At this particular moment in time, Brendan felt his life was falling apart and he had had enough. He was in a very dark place and was contemplating the worst when he was introduced to Voices For Children Foundation.
He spent several years in the foster care system. He was moved around to three different homes and school placements. George thought his ordeal would be over when he was finally adopted, but unfortunately, his new family was not the close, loving family he had hoped for and quickly found himself lost, confused and struggling for answers. Due to a lack of guidance and support from his adoptive family, George’s struggles continued into adulthood. He was two weeks away from being kicked out of his home when one of the other children whom he had known from his adoptive home introduced him to Voices For Children Foundation. After opening up and sharing about his life, the Voices team immediately went to work finding him a new home and helping him build his life.
Thanks to the financial resources provided by Voices as well as the loving care and consistent encouragement, today George works full time and attends college. He is majoring in Criminal Justice and hopes to have a future in Law Enforcement. “For the longest time I believed there was no way out, but I’ve come a long way thanks to the support of my Voices For Children family. I feel proud of who I have become”.
George entered foster care after being removed from his home with his older sister. He was six years old and did not understand what was going on. When he inquired, to the officer who removed him, he was told they would only be going for a ride in the car and that he would see his mom again very soon. It would take over 20 years before George saw his mother again.
As do most children, he felt afraid and without anyone to rely on. He was living at a children’s shelter when he met Nelson Hincapie and Voices For Children Foundation.
Together, the team at Voices continue to guide Isriel. They have supported him and encouraged him to pursue his education. Today, Isriel has completed his high school GED, has a full time job as well as his own apartment. He will start college in January and has come a long way in overcoming his broken youth.
Voices For Children does so much more than just hand over checks. We are the one to call, the hand to hold, the shoulder to cry on and that is what kids like Isriel need to heal the hurt and break the cycle of abuse, abandonment, and neglect.
Throughout all of Isriel’s childhood, his mother struggled with raising her children. His grandmother Eleanor sacrificed everything to care for him and his six brothers. But sadly, she passed away when he was nine and Isriel began his journey through foster care.
As do most children, he felt afraid and without anyone to rely on. He was living at a children’s shelter when he met Voices’ President & CEO, who would go out of his way to make Isriel feel special.
She was introduced to Voices For Children by another youth she knew from foster care. Through the organization, Laquanda was able to find the caring and acceptance that she had hoped for. She sought treatment for her mental health issues and is in a much better place today. Additionally, Voices is providing her with the resources necessary to obtain her certification in Phlebotomy which she will complete in three months and go on to work in a hospital.
When asked what she would tell children going through a similar experience Laquanda replies “I would let them know that everything is going to be ok, to always keep faith”. When asked what she would say to call donors to action on Give Miami Day, her response is simply “be a cheerful giver”
Laquanda was removed from her home at the age of eight due to abuse. Although she was removed from a dangerous environment, the damaging effects lingered long after. She bounced around from home to home, constantly rejected by caregivers due to difficult behavior. The rejection only deepened the hurt and each time, the behavior grew worse. It seemed that no one would take the time to understand that she was suffering from mental health issues and unfortunately, Laquanda remained in the foster care system until she aged out at 18.
She met Voices’ President and CEO when he came to speak at one of her group meetings for a youth organization and he introduced her to Voices for Children and their unconditional love and support. Thanks to their assistance, Shadae is now finishing her high school education and has everything she needs to take care of her baby girl which attends daycare while Shadae is in class. “Unfortunately, a lot of children are placed in difficult circumstances because of things that they did not choose” says Shadae, “their support is an absolute blessing.”
On Thursday, November 15th, don’t turn your back. Help our Voices family provide for kids like Shadae the way a loving family would. #GiveMiamiDay #DontTurnYourBack
Shadae’s experience in foster care was brief but the circumstances that brought her there were difficult and created a lasting impact in her life. While her mother was always present, they nonetheless struggled, bouncing around from homeless shelter to shelter or friend’s and relative’s homes. She was finally put into foster care just three months shy of her 18th birthday so she quickly aged out and right away had to fend for herself. It wasn’t long before she herself would become a mom to baby London, now six months old.
One person that they all agree has been an “angel” in their life is their Guardian ad Litem, Miss Marcelle. She has helped the family by providing resources through Voices For Children Foundation including uniforms for back to school and toys from their wish list during the holidays. Having been with them throughout the entire case, they feel she has been a blessing and they consider her to be a part of their family.
Sara, Carla and Aaron
Sara, Carla, and Aaron came into foster care after Carla was born premature and drug-addicted. She was pronounced dead at birth but this “miracle baby” survived and fortunately, their great aunt Mercy was able to take the kids until their mother, Carolina, followed through with her case plan and was able to reunite with the children. But the case came to foster care again when baby Barby was born after mom went into early labor after being forced to use cocaine by the abusive father of the child. Once again, Mercy was not going to let the children go to strangers, so she took the children in and supported her niece who finally got the treatment she needed.
Another thing they both agree on is their love for their Guardian ad Litem, Miss Marcelle. They cannot help but smile when they talk about her and are grateful for all that she has done for them. “Having a Guardian ad Litem helps you not be stressed out or put pressure on yourself so that when people don’t treat you well, you don’t react in a negative way” says Kenny.
Grandmother Tina also has nothing but great things to say about Miss Marcelle. Although at first, she had a hard time with the number of people that were entering into their lives while going through the dependency/adoption process. Tina says Miss Marcelle won her over when she saw how devoted and she was to her and the children, often spending time with them and taking them out to dinner and Voices For Children activities like the Old Navy Back to School Event where they were able to shop for their uniforms and school supplies. “She turned tears of sorrow into tears of joy” says Tina. “Miss Marcelle is one of a kind!”
Kenny and Bob
Brothers Kenny (12) and Bob (13) were removed from their home after an aunt reported their parents to DCF for Domestic Violence in the home. Luckily, they were able to be adopted by their grandmother Tina who has been doing an excellent job raising them to be “good young men” as Bob states. They both say Math is their favorite subject in school because they want to be entrepreneurs one day and need to know about money. Kenny however also has an interest in becoming a journalist and using his career to help people. They both love football and spending time with their friends.
Michelle continues to draw everyday and hopes to enter an arts magnet high school next year. She envisions herself as a famous artist and plans to use earnings from her art to donate to causes like Voices that help youth like her.
Michelle is 13 years old and has been in foster care for three years. Unfortunately, Michelle was removed due to abuse and has been living in a shelter ever since. Michelle loves art and feels that it has been a powerful tool in her healing. Recently, she participated in an art workshop hosted by Voices For Children in partnership with Dreams Hatchery Foundation called “How I See Myself”. Here, individuals are asked to look in a mirror and draw and paint what they see or would like to see in themselves. This exercise allows subjects to visualize their hopes and dreams for the future and translate those into a tangible, visible image. “The first time I did the workshop it was difficult, but the second time was much easier and made an impression on me”.
One of the biggest supports to Kendra and the children has come from Voices For Children and the many events in which the family has been provided with essential needs such as uniforms and supplies for school and gifts from their wish lists during the holidays. She is also grateful for the caring attention she has received by the children’s Guardian ad Litem, Sharaz Allahar, who has ensured that the family attends these events along with many families like hers. “Voices helps out a lot but more than that, being able to participate in these events really does something special for the kids.”
Margie Carri and Will
Twins Margie and Carri (9), and their younger brother Will (7), came into DCF care after witnessing the brutal murder of their older sister by a family member while their parents slept in the other room. Luckily, their aunt Kendra stepped up and took the children in to keep them from being placed in a foster home with strangers. Kendra, who raised three children of her own, quickly learned the level of neglect the children had endured. They lacked basic life skills such as how to feed and dress themselves which made getting ready for school a struggle and despite their ages, had serious delays in verbal communication, a sign that there was no one ensuring that the children were progressing at the pace that most children should.
We show up and we empower these youth to reach for every opportunity that will make them a success as opposed to a statistic.
A child with a Guardian ad Litem spends less time in foster care and is more likely to be adopted. Children with a GAL are more likely to have good conduct in school, and more likely to succeed at school.