Tanya* and Abriana Morales go way back. Tanya came to live at Abriana’s childhood home when she was six, and Abriana was attending college. Abriana recalls being home for winter break, a few weeks shy of Christmas, when Tanya and her sister arrived. Abriana’s mother often fostered four to six children at a time.
Tanya lived with the Morales family for two years, during which time, Abriana would come in and out of their lives, depending on her college schedule. She’d do Tanya’s hair and take her on trips to the library or zoo. Unfortunately, Tanya’s behaviors— a product of her early childhood trauma—began to affect the other children in such a way that she could no longer live in that household. Abriana recalls Tanya’s abrupt departure. “It was heartbreaking,” she says. “We literally had one day’s notice, and she was gone.”
Tanya was placed at Harrington House, The Home’s group residence for children ages eight to 13, and, when she was older, at The Home at Walpole. Abriana’s mother remained a constant in Tanya’s life. “My mom never stopped calling, never stopped visiting,” says Abriana. Meanwhile, Tanya’s sister continued to live with her mom until another family adopted her.
Tanya began to lose hope when a pre-adoptive family of her own fell through. “After seeing her sister’s full adoption, it was hard on her to be unable to have that person,” says Clinical Coordinator Caitlyn Buttigieg, Tanya’s direct care clinician. “All she wanted was love.”
When Caitlyn first began working with her, Tanya didn’t have any permanency placement options or folks in her life who could give her a lasting, loving home. So Caitlyn and her team set about redefining the concept of “family” and cultivating connections with past teachers and visiting resources who clearly cared for Tanya, including Abriana.
When her mother was unable to drive to Walpole to pick up Tanya for Saturday visits, Abriana went instead. “I knew how devastating that could be,” reveals Abriana. “No child should ever have to feel alone.” During those drives, Abriana was able to build a relationship with Tanya. Day passes soon became overnights, then full weekends. Tanya even vacationed last August with Abriana, her fiancée, Chelsea, and their six-year-old.
Abriana and Chelsea, who are both teachers, now have their own apartment and what they need to give Tanya a bright future. They “took it slow to go fast,” stresses Abriana, and had patience and empathy. “It was never about us. It was about Tanya getting the family she dreamed of and wanted.” This past winter, Abriana, Chelsea and her newest sibling welcomed Tanya home on her 16th birthday. “That wasn’t planned,” says Abriana. “The universe had perfect timing.”
*The youth’s name has been changed for privacy.