Every individual we serve has a unique and compelling story. Healthcare and privacy laws mean that we have to protect the names of the people we work with but their stories are true … and inspiring.

Sharing Her Lifesharing Story

girl&nanaLife takes many strange twists and turns and sharing the story of an individual life can change other lives. A 66-year-old woman has been in our Lifesharing program for four years, and in that time, she has blossomed into a confident and independent woman. Her life had always been difficult. She was in an abusive marriage and was in and out of institutions. She is illiterate because she never had the opportunity to go to school. To make matters worse, she suffers from diabetes. In order to deal with all of this, she took a lot of medication and sought a great deal of psychological support. Today she is free from her abusive marriage and is living a renewed, purposeful life. She attends literacy classes, uses less medicine, has controlled her diabetes by monitoring her blood sugar, and no longer sees a psychiatrist. Recently she was invited to share her experiences with students at Moravian College in order to educate them about individuals with developmental disabilities. She candidly answered questions from the class and encouraged everyone there to participate. Many of the students were surprised that she had lived in an institution. They were shocked to hear that she had been married and especially surprised to hear that she had never been given the chance to go to school. She was thrilled to receive a thank you letter from the students and is looking forward to speaking again next semester. Today, in a supportive Lifesharing home, she lets everyone know that she is happier now than ever before in her life.

Foster Care and Host Families

Growing Up and Going Home

kayakandfishMany young people in foster care hope to reunite with a natural parent. One young boy was placed in foster care at the age of 12 and struggled as he grew through his teenage years. In each home, his foster parents taught him valuable lessons which he took with him and gradually applied to each new experience he encountered. By the time he was seventeen, he learned how to be more independent, to maintain part-time employment and to make meaningful relationships. And he learned how to control his emotions better than he ever thought possible. An important part of his growth was his participation in the Youth Outdoor Expeditions. These trips proved to be life-changing activities that helped develop his leadership skills and allowed him to become more self-confident. He was honored when Access Services asked him to share his passion for Youth Outdoor Expeditions at one of our public events. During his last six months with Access Services, he even became a mentor for another foster child. His ability to mature through a trying adolescence has fostered a sense of pride and accomplishment. As he grew up, he developed caring and trusting relationships with his foster parents, coordinators, and other staff at Access Services. But most importantly, he was able to experience and recognize the strengths and abilities that have allowed him to reunite with his mother after many years. He now has the maturity and control of his emotions to make peace with his past and appreciate the road that led him home once again.

Moving On by Staying Connected

girl_picnicOne child in our Therapeutic Foster Care program recently had a very successful transition to high school. In previous years this foster child had several behavior issues. At school she would often run out of her classroom and run down the hall screaming. She had been placed in an emotional support classroom but her behavior had not changed over time. When our Therapeutic Foster Care team met, it was recommended that this child be enrolled in an autistic support classroom. She immediately bonded with her teacher and her behavior in school improved dramatically. She began to achieve her daily goals and started forming friendships with other children in her class. She had inside jokes with her teacher and even became a great classroom assistant. When the time came for her to attend high school, the support team negotiated a transition period, allowing her to attend her old school half the time and go to the high school half the time. She quickly adapted and now attends high school full time. She gets along very well with her new teachers and has remained pen-pals with her old teacher. She recently participated in a fashion show with her high school class, even helping to write the script for the show. Her former teacher and the entire class from her former school took a bus to the high school to see the fashion show which she had helped to create. With the right team and caring support, she has made an excellent transition to high school and continues to make progress.

Foster Care and Host Families

Slam Dunk Success

motherdaughterAccess Services has been working for a number of years with a child with special needs who never speaks and often does not move until told to do so. Her natural home life was extremely hard. She and her siblings were rarely fed and, in their need for nourishment, the children all ate non-food items including paint and toys. When the children were initially taken into care, some had to be hospitalized and one eventually died. Each has lasting intestinal problems as a result of their early abuse. When this particular girl was placed into her current foster home, the foster mother enrolled her in a local basketball league. The little girl loved to play basketball but whenever someone passed her the ball she would stop everything and turn and look at her foster mom. The foster mother would shout encouragingly to her to shoot or pass the ball. And while the little girl loved the game, she simply never sank a basket. Regardless, at each game, the supportive crowd of parents would root for the little girl, until finally, towards the end of the season, she finally made a shot. The crowd was so excited, everyone rose as one and gave her a standing ovation. She is still playing basketball today several seasons later – enjoying a game she loves with friends who care and a community that has embraced her as one of their own.

Achieving More by Accepting What’s Possible

girl_businessclassA young girl, who was having problems at her home and at school, was placed by Access Services in a Therapeutic Foster Care home with a foster family. She had a number of developmental and emotional issues and required therapy as well as the support of a family that could listen to her. She was initially placed in special education classes but in her most recent marking period was able to obtain honors in all of her classes. She has now placed out of all of her special education classes and is ready to participate in regular education classes. Through therapy she has realized that she cannot control her parents actions and is now able to productively focus on her own challenges. With a newfound confidence and a record of accomplishments, she is ready to return to her family. Although her situation at home is not perfect, she has gained the tools and is now equipped to handle situations that may arise with her natural family. Meanwhile she has become an inspirational speaker about her experiences with foster care and Access Services and has developed into a truly poised young woman.

Foster Care Doesn’t Always Have to End

A young man with special needs spent ten years with his foster mother. When he reached the age of 21, he faced discharge from foster care but the bond between him and his foster mother was very strong and highly supportive. When the young man was first placed, he had trouble with frustration and acted out if he was angry or upset. His foster mother got him involved in Special Olympics and he now enjoys sports like bowling and softball. These activities have helped him learn control and helped him get through school as well. Because he is very good with his hands and likes to take things apart and put them back together, his foster mom would like to see him get a job coach so he could use his skills to work in a supervised setting. But most inspirationally, in order to remain her foster son’s caregiver, the mother transferred into our Lifesharing program where their bond continues to this day. She feels she has made a lifelong connection and commitment to him.

Foster Care and Host Families

Turning Adversity into an Asset

girl_adversityA 15-year-old girl was referred to Access Services for help. Because of a severely strained relationship with her parents, who were also caring for her severely autistic brother, she was living with her aunt. She felt as if she was constantly overlooked, taking a back seat to her brother, and was depressed as a result. For years, she struggled with suicidal thoughts, anger and aggressive behavior towards others. The young girl felt hopeless and alone and would act out by cutting herself. Access Services went to work in conjunction with her school support staff to offer her the guidance and support she needed. Today, she journals, attends weekly counseling sessions and reaches out for help when life becomes too much. Incredibly, she has now combined her strong academic skills with her passion for educating the community about autism. She even employed her skills and newfound confidence to organize a benefit dinner to raise autism awareness and plans to donate all the funds to the Autism Society of America. Access Services is proud to announce that Montgomery County honored this young person for her incredible success story at the annual Mental Health Luncheon. Her ability to make something positive from her difficult circumstances is an inspiration for us all.

Youth Outdoor Expedition Opens Doors to Scouting

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Access Services received the following note from a grateful parent following her son’s participation in our Youth Outdoor Expedition program.

Thank you very much for including my son in the previous outdoor expedition. It was his first camping trip and he loved it! With the help of your staff it gave him the confidence to try new activities in a very supportive environment. Also, he wasn’t the only person who needed medication and didn’t have to feel embarrassed about having to take his.

My son had the opportunity to learn how to work as part of a team. He came home proud of his hard work and his new ability to make friends. For the first time, my son felt like a valuable part a team and this has given him confidence. He is now a member of a Boy Scout Troop and plays on the township lacrosse team. Without the success of the YOE, I don’t think he would have had the confidence to participate in these activities.

Thank you.

The First Interview

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A young man taking part in the TIP Program worked with a TIP Facilitator to help him achieve employment-related goals. He had never had an opportunity to interview for a job before and was focused on getting employment. The Facilitator started by creating obtainable action steps to make his goal of employment a reality. This was a great way for him to track the progress being made. The young man came up with great steps for employment, which included researching employment options in his area, gathering and filling out applications, and preparing for interviewing.

The young man showed incredible focus when it came to his future’s plan, and with the help and guidance of the TIP Facilitator, he began showing a sense of confidence in his decision making. Within a few short weeks in the TIP Program, he received his first interview at American Eagle as a sales associate! As anyone knows, a first interview can be very nerve racking, so the Facilitator worked hard with the young man to prepare him. The Facilitator took the young man to Goodwill to pick out a nice outfit suitable for any interview. This really helped with the young man’s comfort level because they didn’t have many options to choose from at the home front. The Facilitator and young man sat down and did role-playing to help build confidence while in the interview. The Facilitator asked him many questions and helped prepare for some questions that may be asked during the interview process. The young man answered the questions to the best of his ability and the Facilitator provided feedback. The two practiced until the young man felt as comfortable and confident as possible for the upcoming interview.

Once the actual interview ended, the young man told the Facilitator that many questions asked during the role-play were asked during the real thing! He was so excited about how well the interview went and regardless of the outcome, he took his first interview as a positive experience! Even though he didn’t find out if he received the job, he wanted to immediately start filling out more applications! That certainly makes a Tip Facilitator very proud!

Click here to learn more about the TIP Program.