In a world that feels uncertain, parents have the unique quality of being a permanent figure in a child’s life. They are the ones we count on to show up through every high and every low. They can be looked to for emotional support, and provide a good sounding board as we navigate young adulthood.
But what happens when your parents no longer have the ability to take care of you?
Where do you go when you’ve spent the last several years in-and-out of homelessness? Who do you turn to when you’re trying to navigate the world of independent living on your own? These questions are central to the journey of Caleb*, a 16-year-old young man who was brought into protective custody and eventually found a home with a Koinonia resource family.
Initially, Caleb spent a lot of time reflecting on his losses and showed signs of anxiety and depression. As one could imagine, Caleb was struggling to reconcile his past and accept the direction his life was going. At the time, the only place he felt safe was his bedroom. Caleb was very hesitant to open up to others, but he was slowly building trust with his Koinonia social worker, Joanna. As Caleb began to let others in, he was able to make connections at his high school; but as the Covid pandemic forced schools to close, he experienced further isolation.
At the age of 18, Caleb moved to Mia* and Joseph’s* resource home to begin college. During his first semester, Caleb never stepped out of his room to interact with family, and was struggling to earn passing grades. Underneath the self-imposed isolation and failing grades was a sadness about his biological mom never showing up for her visits. The resource family’s heart broke for Caleb; they searched for a way to lift his spirits and provide him with additional support. They were able to get Caleb connected with the Dare to Dream Program through Bakersfield Angels. The program provided him additional therapy and a mentor who encouraged him to develop independent living skills (i.e. meal prepping and budgeting).
Mia and Joseph continued to have contact with Caleb. They consistently invited him to join them at the dinner table, watch a movie or do an activity. They lavished him with encouragement, which he desperately needed. When he would decline their invitation, the family members maintained their sense of humor. They joked with Caleb, which made him smile, deciding to join after all.
Although Caleb was technically an adult, Mia and Joseph understood that he needed additional time and support in his transition to independent living. They focused every resource at their disposal to prepare him mentally and emotionally to begin living on his own. At the age of 20, Caleb qualified for a transitional youth apartment, where he would live with a roommate. The resource family worked together to help Caleb pack up and transport his belongings. After helping him get set up in his new place, Mia and Joseph made sure Caleb knew their desire to keep the family connection going. They encouraged Caleb to return home for a visit, join them on holidays, and reach out for anything he needed.
Although he is now living independently, Caleb maintains a sense of belonging, safety and unconditional love with his resource family. Mia and Joseph are permanent figures in Caleb’s life, and he has a forever home to return to for the holidays.
*Names in this story have been changed to protect identities.
Story Submitted by: Mardi Yeary & Joanna Acevedo Andres