"Life was happening to me, I wasn't living it."
Chris Nobles life changed the day he tried to take the bottle away from his mother. Thereafter he would be a “system kid.”
Chris’s home life had not been happy. His parents did not get along, and he now realizes that the stressful family situation caused him to become angry, resulting in angry outburst directed at his parents. By the time he was fourteen his father was working out of the area, and his mother was succumbing to a drinking problem. His mother couldn’t handle him, and the situation came to a head when Chris, during an animated argument tried to take a bottle from her. Chris was accused of violence and removed from the home. He would not live at home again.
For the next four years he would live in treatment centers and group homes. During those years he was often heavily medicated. After he was released from treatment he lived in shelter, and then placed in a group home for his final two years in the system. Placement with a foster family was not in the cards: Chris was perceived as a large, angry, black male. The kind of kid a foster parent didn’t want to touch.
Life in a group home was difficult. The on-campus schools were below standard, with more emphasis on keeping the youth in line than helping them develop. College was not part of the plan. Chris says that he took one thing away from his adolescent experience: “Suppression of ambition was the best coping mechanism.”
In the regimented environment he spent his teens, it is difficult to have anything that was your own, but Chris found one thing: his writing. He began writing poems and short pieces of fiction. He showed them to no one, but the writing sustained him, because it gave him a sense of purpose and an outlet.
At eighteen he would age out of the dependent care system and become an “adult,” with little education, and no family support. Looking back, Chris says the prospect of being on his own should have panicked him, but it didn’t. “Life was happening to me, I wasn’t living it.”
Fortunately, Chris began receiving counseling through Valley Youth House’s Supportive Housing Program while he was still in the group home. The counselors convinced him to begin planning for a future, and after he aged out of the system found him a place to live, help in finding a job, and encouraging him to enhance his education. Most importantly, they encouraged to plan for a future, and with that plan came hope for leading a successful life.
Today Chris is a student at Montgomery County Community College and works at the Child Welfare Training Program. The CWTP is overseen by the University of Pittsburgh, and as a Youth Ambassador there he helps children in the dependent care system develop the resources they need to live independently. He finds facilitating trainings and meetings for youth rewarding. ‘Every child in the system starts out behind,” says Chris, “I want to help kids get back in the race.”
Chris says he was lucky, and he had the support of Valley Youth House. He wants to continue working on his poems and stories, he wants to finish his own education, and most of all he wants to continue help other youth have the chance to achieve success. He knows how much a helping hand can mean to a system kid.