Disclaimer: All names and images have been changed to protect people’s identities.

At 19 years old, Penny had aged out of foster care, having never been adopted. She was living in a transitional home, learning to care for herself as an adult. Her first roadblock, however, was that she did not have reliable transportation, because she didn’t have her driver’s license. Without parents to teach her, she’d never learned to drive a car.

Through our Community Connections YouThrive (CCYT) program, Penny could get help with housing, higher education, employment, healthcare, finances, and more. In this case, she began with learning to drive.

After she was able to conquer her anxiety behind the wheel and pass her driver’s test, Penny’s next goals were to find a job and further her education. She refused to let her childhood trauma impact her future and her dreams – until she began dating Josiah.

Josiah was often under the influence of drugs. At times, he was a loving and thoughtful partner. At other times, he would try to control Penny, telling her who she could and could not see and threatening her if she disobeyed. She was constantly on high alert, worried that the smallest thing she said or did would set Josiah off.

To get closer to Josiah, Penny began doing drugs with him. When her transitional home found out she was using drugs, Penny lost her apartment and became homeless. Soon after, she found out she was pregnant with Josiah’s baby.

After Penny’s daughter, Julia, was born, Josiah only became more volatile, leading to a domestic violence report. This was a wake-up call for Penny. It was time for her face the reality that Josiah was dangerous. Leaving the relationship was the only way she could protect her daughter from harm.

However, life as a single parent was more than Penny could handle. She was sleep-deprived, overworked, and lonely. Because she had no one else to lean on, she reached out to Josiah’s mother, Mara, who took in baby Julia while Penny worked on healing from her trauma and seeking help for her mental health.

After six months, Penny felt rejuvenated and ready to be the best mother she could be to her daughter. But when she came to pick Julia up, Mara refused to give her back, using Penny’s mental health against her and reporting her to social services for neglect.

Penny returned home without her daughter, humiliated and upset. She was taking her medication and going to therapy. She had just won employee of the month. She was finally stable, and now she had lost her daughter.

With our help, Penny completed the required tasks the following week, and the court-ordered Mara to give the baby back to her mother. Instead, Mara moved Josiah into her home. Since there was now a parent in the home with the child and no court-ordered custody agreement, law enforcement could not force Mara to relinquish her granddaughter.

Penny’s throat felt tight. This was the worst-case scenario: her infant daughter was now living with an abuser. We worked quickly to help Penny file a restraining order against Josiah for both herself and Julia. We also connected her with legal aid to get her established as the custodial parent.

At last, Julia was returned home to her mother. Penny rocked her baby to sleep that night, listening fondly to Julia’s quiet breathing. There was nowhere she would rather be.

Because of generous donors like you, FosterAdopt Connect is able to fund programs like CCYT to give former foster kids the skills and support necessary to thrive in adulthood. On behalf of people like Penny, thank you!