Youth Spotlight: Haley
When 17 year old Haley reflects on the last few years of her life, she says “I never got to be a teenager”. At Valley Youth House, we often hear that phrase from the youth we serve, many of whom come from traumatic backgrounds. During her teenage years, Haley has been taking care of siblings and navigating the world of foster care. When Haley entered care at age 15, her Children and Youth caseworker referred her to Valley Youth House’s Adolescents Achieving Independence (AAI) program in York County. Haley says, “Valley Youth House wants you to be kids. Just because you’re going through something doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun.”
Valley Youth House’s Adolescents Achieving Independence (AAI) program serves youth that are currently in foster care or have been recently released from foster care. While in the program, youth receive assistance in locating permanent housing, attend weekly individual life skills counseling, summer education, cultural and recreational events focusing on life skills development, and ongoing life skills development groups. AAI staff also act as a liaison between the youth and their school/college and refer youth to job training programs.
Haley was most excited for the social aspect of the AAI program. “I met friends and we just clicked.” she said. Often when joining the AAI program, it is the first time many youth meet others who are in the foster care system and going through similar experiences. These connections can be very impactful on the youth in the program.
The Valley Youth House Life Skills Counselors for the AAI program also become meaningful connections for the youth. Haley has built wonderful relationships with her counselors Katie Franklin and Maria Marker. “The counselors are always there for you. They’re your safety net.” Haley says. Although Haley says she couldn’t have asked for a better foster family, she says “it’s nice to know that you have someone else to turn to other than your immediate family.” Haley says that kindness to others is what she will take with her most after the program is complete.
Her counselor, Maria, says Haley is a model client who is a responsible young lady and a great advocate for herself and others in need. Haley has participated in the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and worked with the group to collect suitcases for other youth in foster care.
Haley encourages other youth to participate in the AAI program, “A lot of youth go through hard times and Valley Youth House is a way for kids to bounce back and become a new person.” Currently a 10th-grader, Haley aspires to go to trade school and get an apprenticeship to become a welder.
Pictured (L-R): Haley & her foster mom/aunt Ashley