A will to change; the support to make it happen
Tabitha got high with her parents because that’s what you did in their home.
She grew up around drugs and drug use and got hooked on them. By the time she was supposed to enter the eighth grade, her teeth were rotting.
“I did drugs to be accepted by my parents,” Tabitha said. “But I just knew things were never going to work out for me. I didn’t do anything; I didn’t think I’d be anything.”
She didn’t go to school. Bouts of depression and anxiety stemmed from repeated neglect and then abuse. From ages 13-17, Tabitha’s downward spiral kept hitting new lows.
The whole time, she was looking out for her younger sisters. And at 17, Tabitha told a counselor about her home situation. Tabitha and her sisters were placed in state custody.
In foster care, Tabitha began to thrive. She completed high school through a special program, and then expressed interest in Youth Villages’ transitional living program.
“I knew about her because a friend of mine was a teacher in Tabitha’s program,” said Jai Gervin, Youth Villages TL clinical supervisor. “For me it was always about trust. It was important in Tabitha’s case to get her bought in to what we were doing.”
After aging out of the system, youth like Tabitha are statistically at their most vulnerable, with many facing a high risk of falling into a life of substance abuse, prison and poverty. However, we’ve learned that with the right intensive guidance and attention, their odds of becoming successful, independent adults increase dramatically.
Tabitha enrolled in college, and her dramatic change accelerated. The bond and support formed between Tabitha and Jai emboldened Tabitha to pursue more lofty goals and accomplish things she’d never thought possible.
She made A’s and B’s her first semester of college, and plans to go to nursing school. She has a job, checking and savings accounts and a driver’s license with plans to purchase a car.
“Tabitha needs consistency,” Jai said. “She needs to know someone is in her corner.”
Tabitha’s foster family plans to adopt her younger sisters, and Tabitha complements her TL work with regular therapy. In addition to her practical needs, Jai and Tabitha also discuss healthy relationships, personal boundaries and making good decisions.
“We role play quite a bit,” Jai said. “Many times she plays the role of counselor and I play Tabitha’s role.
“She has seen so much in her 18 years. But she’s motivated to change. She’s the one who did it.”
Even Tabitha is wowed by her accomplishments.
“TL is an awesome program,” she said. “But it’s still shocking … I’ve been clean for a while and I look back and see I’ve accomplished a lot since then.”