Being in the foster care system, as we all may know is one of the most difficult things that a young person can experience in their life. Becoming pregnant did not make it any easier on my current circumstances. Not only was I one of those kids who was being bounced from home to home, but I was also already behind in my school work due to the instability issues. Having a baby was only going to compound all my current issues. I felt so alone and scared. No one knew how I felt and I had no one to cry to so I would cry to myself and God. I felt as if not a single soul cared about me and I was being lugged around like luggage. Then to imagine that my child was going to have to endure this horrible happening with me and possibly get removed from my care because I was also in care killed me. Looking back, moving to Alpha House was one of the best things that happened to me. Of course at first I felt scared and that the staff were just that, staff. I was wrong. These women that work here were and are so phenomenal and passionate and genuinely concerned about the young women they handle every day. I can remember multiple times when Ms. Jennifer and most of all Ms. Sue would stay way after hours just to comfort me. Whether it was baby daddy issues, feeling hopeless, school issues, anything I needed them for they were there to reassure me that I was going to be somebody and make it and pull through. I always was encouraged by my case worker Ms. Audrey. Sometimes I felt like she was too hard on me or didn't understand. Now I thank God for all of her long annoying speeches and giving me the evil eye when she knew I was up to something. Anything that I wanted to accomplish or pursue they supported me one hundred percent. I felt great and that I could do anything in the world. For the first time I felt like "I can." Alpha house went out of their way to bend certain policies just so I could attend school events, have extra time for late night studying, and try and have a normal teenage experience. Ms. Julie was my assigned counselor. I would not be where I am right now if I did not have her to be the encouraging optimistic women that she is. Whenever I would feel a breakdown coming or I had a hard day I knew I could go to her and she always had the right words to calm me down and make me stop and think about the situation in a different light. There has been many times when I just came into her office crying my eyes out telling, her I can't take it anymore "I can't do this." She told me "No, yes you can, don't ever let a situation or a person actions change who you are or your morals." I look at her as my mother. Alpha House was my one and only stable placement in the foster care system. The girls there are able to have their own room which is so vital and important when living in a group home full of hormonal women. We are able to cook our own food which teaches us how to be prepared to live on our own. We have to have our babies on a set bedtime schedule which is an absolute must when you have school and work in the morning. Being on my own now I regret not keeping my daughter on her schedule because now she doesn't go to sleep until late. Overall I feel like Alpha provides one common entity and goal, helping women and babies in need and providing relationships that you will have the rest of your life.
It all happened in April 2009 when I found myself living in the Alpha House. I was seventeen years old, six and a half months pregnant, and a little over a month away from graduating high school. My dad gave up his rights and that what ended me up in foster care. Not only was I scared of my new living arrangements but also because I was soon to be a mother. With no family support and surrounded by complete strangers I have to say it was actually the best experience of my life. Alpha staff became my family, they never judged me and they were always there to listen. Living around other mothers helped me learn what to do and what not to do when it came to raising my son. In June 2009 I graduated from Gibbs High School, Alpha staff was in the stands to cheer me on, August 11th, 2009 one day short of my 18th birthday I gave birth to my beautiful son Jayden Lewis. If it wasn't for the things I learned at Alpha I wouldn't know where to begin taking care of a newborn. Even though I was no longer in foster care, I continued to stay at Alpha because I knew it was only best for me and Jayden. I planned to go back to school in November 2009. One day short of three months my son stopped breathing while he was in daycare. He spent the next 7 days on life support in All Children's Hospital. He passed November 17th, 2009. Through my tragedy I had Ms. Jennifer and Ms. Julie at my side at all times. Having no job and really no hope, Alpha raised money for me to continue staying there and a headstone for my son. Without the help of Alpha and the support they have given me and my son, I honestly don't know where I'd be.
My story at Alpha begins when I was just a couple weeks pregnant and sleeping on the tile floor at my mother's house to get away from my ex. My ex and I had a turbulent relationship; we were engaged, disengaged and the fights would never stop. Then I got pregnant.
I knew he didn't want me to keep the baby so telling him that I was pregnant and not having an abortion was nerve wrecking! Finally, I got the courage to tell him and it all went wrong from there. I slept on the floor at my mother's house while trying to find a place to go. I called 211 and they helped me find Alpha House.
When I came to Alpha House I was nervous, PETRIFIED! Stepping into the halls, touring the living room and the rooms I would call my home for the next two years made me feel awkward, uneasy and my eyes filled with tears.
Then I met the staff, Mr. Bill and Ms Hope were the best thing to happen to me. Mr. Bill would take me into counseling every week and we talked about whatever was on my mind. His words of wisdom helped me pursue a better direction and helped me cope with my hurt and to figure out how to use it to my advantage and become less of a victim. Though Ms. Hopes roll was not to me a shoulder to cry on she was there for me as well with constant words of encouragement and sometimes to slap me on the forehead and tell me to "WAKE UP!" Ms. Hopes roll was to help me maneuver through the system. I didn't know much about St Petersburg when I first came to Alpha, but, she drove me to doctors visits, help me pick up my prenatal's from the pharmacy and where she couldn't help she had another Alpha girl help me figure out the bus system, and show me the neighborhood.
Through the constant bustle of girls arriving and setting aflame tempers at Alpha and then just as quickly leaving, I learned lessons of maturity that I hold on to today. Lessons of patience, gratitude, love for others, and the awareness that just because you have the best intentions for the ones around you, does not mean the ones around you have the same for you. All of the incidents I've gone through, though tough at times, were a part of God's plan for me. I chose the roads I took and I have learned to look further down those roads for the future.
I'm in school; I have decided to take up medical and clinical laboratory assistant and am LOVING IT! I hope that when I go on externship, it will be working at a cancer specialist's office and help doctors in the treatment of patients with blood disorders or as a phlebotomist.
I am also in a relationship with a wonderful man whom I admire deeply. He gets along with my son and took him in as his own. From my lessons at Alpha I have learned a maturity to take relationships more seriously and with his patience, love and guidance.
I feel blessed in my life and I thank God that Alpha House was there for me when I needed them most. THANK YOU ALPHA!!!!!