Clara* looked at the group of girls sitting in the circle with her. They had become her safe space. They understood one another, leaned on each other, but the caregivers at their group home were always trying to separate them, and she didn’t understand why. So, she fled, knowing she couldn’t handle the group setting anymore; she’d been in group homes since she was seven, and she didn’t want to continue to share everything with the other 55 children who called the space home. “I want an opportunity to look for my family,” she shared.
Clara didn’t locate her family before she was picked up and placed in a state children’s home with 400 other children. As she tried to adjust to the new living situation, she looked back fondly on the home with just 55 more kids than her. “It just wasn’t a good fit for Clara,” shared Alé Castro, Back2Back staff. “She has long struggled with health issues, and it was quickly decided this large of a home wouldn’t be best for her growth and healing, and the group of friends at her previous home weren’t going to allow her to flourish, so we looked for her family.”
For seven years, Clara wasn’t able to see or connect with her extended family. The home she was in only allowed parents to visit; she lost connection with cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. When local authorities located her biological family, they immediately opened their doors for her with follow-up support from the Strong Families team and essentially overnight, she got an entire family back after seven years.
“As we worked on her transition back into the family home with her mom and grandparents, the adults collectively agreed her behavioral needs were a priority,” explained Alé. “We were encouraged when we realized some of her previous struggles were no longer present once she was back with her own family and in a more consistent environment.”
Clara’s reunification with her family has been monumental for her healing, and it has allowed her to carve out new paths for herself and her family. “Clara is from a bloodline that cannot read or write,” shared Alé. “She is part of the first generation in her family to both read and write, and she will be the first to graduate from middle school.” The Strong Families staff team provides resources to Clara’s mom to help guide her in this new stage of her life, offering assistance in ways she’s never received before, because she didn’t know what was available for her.
“Together, we are strengthening their family unit and helping them understand the story is far from over,” shared Alé.
Clara, her mother, and grandparents aren’t the only ones receiving assistance – Back2Back staff are now coming alongside her aunt and cousins, who live nearby. An entire family unit is learning of the resources available to them and what doors true advocacy can open for them.
Clara’s story was painful, difficult, and felt confining. Today, she is making footprints on a never-before-traversed path. She is safe with her own family, reconnected with extended relatives, doing well in school, and receiving the care she and her family deserve. Join Back2Back in prayer of Clara and her family – that they take these gifts of change and growth and continue to transform their family lineage and lore.