Taking Charge of Her Life, Althea Excels

A guest post by Joanne Malise, State Director for Living Innovations Rhode Island (Living Innovations is a service of Mosaic).

Althea was about to be 18, the age most teens dream to reach. But the birthday would be something very different for Althea. The school and child welfare system could do nothing more for her, and she was too young to enter the adult system. Age 18 would be a life-changer for her. It was the age in which the child welfare “Subsidized Adoption” funding to her foster parents would end. It was also the age in which she could legally leave the home that she had grown to hate, even though her younger sister would be left behind.

Then the call came from the State adult services asking Living Innovations to help. It was an extremely cold November in 2010, and the State was asking if we could find a new home for Althea. Arrangements were made to meet with the State Police one evening across the road from the home of the foster parents. The State Police were very familiar with the home and were in full support of Althea leaving, except that Althea was not living in the home. She was living in a dilapidated trailer behind the home that lacked both running water and heat. The foster father stated it was Althea’s choice to live there, but we will never know whose choice it really was or all the reasons why she resided there.

The police knocked on the trailer door, and it was opened by a small blond-haired, blue-eyed young woman. After confirming her identification, I asked, “Would you like to come with me to a home that is safe and warm and where you will be taken care of?” There was very little hesitation before she began throwing her few possessions into the offered trash bags.

Thus began Althea’s journey into Shared Living. 

Fourteen years later, and at least six different Shared Living (SLA) homes, Althea has matured into a woman who now can verbally express her thoughts and needs. It is very hard to break habits of a lifetime that were grown out of hunger, frustration and deprivation. She has learned to control most of her anger and how to trust others. 

After not seeing her sister for more than seven years, they were able to be reunited when her sister moved into another Shared Living arrangement upon her 18th birthday. Althea is an avid reader, having “consumed” the Harry Potter series numerous times! She loves reading mythology and doing crafts. Althea has tried several jobs and loves volunteering with the elderly. She is generous and loves gift buying and making crafts for others. She has made a network of friends with whom she stays in touch, and this includes her boyfriend of 10 years.

Most importantly, she has learned to trust and talk through her issues. She is a woman redefined.

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