Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017
Maria entered care at the age of 2 due to substance abuse and other issues of child neglect. She was able to stay with an aunt for much of her childhood and then was returned to her mother at the age of 10. For the next few years, Maria’s life was full of strife and she and one of her siblings called the Abuse Hotline over 10 times before finally being removed from her home for a second time. In her words, Maria says, “I knew if I stayed there, I would die.” Mariahended up back in foster care and moved multiple times, including placements with relatives, non-relatives, group homes, and foster homes. In high school alone, Maria attended 4 different schools because of constantly changing placements. Research has shown that every time a child’s placement changes they fall behind at least 6 months in school.
At the age of 17, Maria’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and Attorney ad Litem assisted her in petitioning the court to terminate her mother’s rights. Maria wanted the opportunity to find a forever family who would help her succeed and work with her as she pursued her goals. During her Senior year, it became apparent that Maria was struggling with reading comprehension and her FCAT scores were low enough to keep her from graduating even though she had a 3.5 GPA. After assessing her educational information, her and her GAL determined that the best strategy was to improve her ACT reading score which could override her FCAT score to meet graduation requirements. The Guardian ad Litem Foundation assisted with funding to support an ACT bootcamp and a study book to help Maria prepare for the ACT. She was able to raise her ACT reading score by over 6 points in less than 2 months and graduated from High School. In Maria’s own words. “I have found a way to use my voice to help teens know that even though things may seem like they will not get any better, if they do not give up they can see a brighter day. I plan to use my life experience and my voice to help improve the foster care system.” Maria is attending St. Petersburg College with straight As and was adopted by her GAL when she aged out at 18. She is thriving as a young adult while working and going to school.