Tasha was just 12 years old when she entered the foster care system. She was removed from her home due to issues of abuse and neglect, and spent the next six years of her life moving between three different foster homes. She was first placed in an abusive foster home, where she spent more than four years. By this point, she was unable to trust anyone, and, as a result, started acting out and getting into trouble.
Tasha moved to her next foster home when she was 16 years old, and lived there for just a few short months. It was during this time that Tasha was introduced to the Independent Living Program (ILP) through Family Services of NW PA. ILP is a program that helps youth between the ages of 14 and 21 in out-of-home placement make the transition to become independent, self-sufficient and productive adults. Tasha was paired with Shannon, an ILP caseworker with a long history of helping youth succeed in life.
At first, Tasha was quiet and didn't interact much. "It took me a while to realize that Shannon and the ILP program were really there to help me," said Tasha. "Once I was able to fully trust them, really positive things started happening."
During her senior year in high school, Tasha moved to her final foster home. She graduated at the age of seventeen, despite continued challenges and criticism from others. She attributes much of this success to the support and guidance of Shannon and the ILP program. "I was very headstrong and thought I knew everything," said Tasha. "If it wasn't for Shannon, I probably wouldn't have graduated."
Shortly after graduating high school, Tasha became pregnant with her first son. Soon she found herself without a place to live, and reached out to Shannon for support. Shannon helped her find a transitional apartment, create a resume, and obtain her first job. While living in transitional housing, Tasha knew she was unable to provide for her kids, and made the tough decision to put them in foster care. "It's hard to make the decision when you're younger to admit that you're wrong, especially when you grew up not trusting anybody," said Tasha.
At that point, Tasha vowed to turn her life around. With the help of Shannon and the ILP program, Tasha started saving money, moved into a new apartment and bought a car. Shannon even convinced her to apply for college. "I wouldn't have made it through without Shannon. She helped me make one of the hardest decisions of my entire life, and supported me the entire time," said Tasha.
After just four months, Tasha was reunited with her kids. "If Shannon hadn't helped me get through that part of my life, I wouldn't have understood how to be a parent," said Tasha. "I don't think I would have my kids today without Shannon's support."
Tasha is now married with four kids and a loving husband. They own a home and Tasha is enrolled in college courses at Mercyhurst University. Tasha credits much of her success to "and the ILP program at Family Services of NW PA. "Shannon is my role model. I never had a role model before and she stuck by me when I had nobody. She is very special," said Tasha.
Tasha hopes to one day work with kids in situations similar to her own. She wants to make a difference by helping others the same way that Shannon helped her. "Shannon is still my main support," said Tasha. "I hope to be just like her one day."