During her 23 years working at The Villages, Jennifer has been the connector for many families committed to opening their homes to vulnerable children. She has seen many children’s lives begin happily again because of adoption and helped other families through reunification.
“It is hard to decide what is the most rewarding aspect of my job, as each day and each child’s case is different. I look forward to each challenge and know the plan will be paved as we are walking it,” Jennifer said.
As a mother of two herself, she shares the most challenging part of her job is advocating for the kids she serves. “These kids are so important to fight for and need advocates. Sometimes the simplest thing is the most important thing to them. Any gain is a win for them.”
Jennifer recently took time to talk about her work connecting and reconnecting families along with sharing a bit about herself.
What has been your most rewarding experience working at The Villages?
I have two cases that have been the most rewarding and challenging of my career. The first involves two young girls in foster care who quickly grew on my heart. Both girls had just lost their father to cancer, and they were moved to a foster home. The youngest of the two girls was diagnosed with a terminal illness while in foster care. Within a year, parental rights were terminated for the oldest child (not the youngest due to her terminal illness). The youngest child suffered tremendous pain with her disease and required serious around the clock dedication from her foster parents . Last March, sadly, she passed away. Her sister was given the gift of time with her and has happy memories.
Prior to her death, the foster parents welcomed the child’s mother to the hospital for a final good-bye visit and shared stories about this young lady with her mother. We took pictures and celebrated her young life to the fullest. After her death, we worked through the challenges to ensure a stable future for her sister. We were able to find a supportive, caring, and local family for adoption.
The second case involves working with a young man in foster care with significant medical needs who had been in the same home for the past seven years. He has entered a phase in his life where he has less time left to be with his foster family, yet every day is a victory for him. I visit him twice a week, and he is such a joy to be around. His laughter is music to my ears, and he responds openly to other children around him.
What is one thing you would like people to know about children in foster care?
Generally, when we are given a referral that lists a child’s troubling behaviors, we find they are the best behaved of any other children. For example, I have worked with teenagers (one of my favorite groups of children) for years and been told their worst-case scenarios. I find these children just need someone to love and listen to them. They need structure and need to know someone is not going to give up on them.