A cap and gown, a diploma, and a backyard graduation
At 14 years old, Sean was emotionally abused by his birth mother. After being removed from the abusive environment, Sean was placed in a group home, where he lived for several years. Sean experienced what many young men in foster care experience – a challenge finding a family willing to take in a teenage boy with trauma. He struggled in school, spent time in the juvenile justice system, and experienced mental health issues.
Sean was eventually referred to Stanford Sierra Youth & Families (SSYF) to help him find a supportive and loving family. Under the Intensive Services for Foster Children (ISFC) program, SSYF prepares families to parent young people like Sean; to provide them with the love, understanding, and acceptance that all children deserve. A wonderful couple, Jordan and Shay, were introduced to Sean through SSYF and became his foster parents. With support from SSFY, they learned how to advocate for Sean and to ensure he received the support and services he needed.
Sean is now 18 years old and is thriving due to the acceptance and support of Jordan and Shay. He is part of a community of friends and recently graduated from high school. Although Sean is excited about the prospect of life after high school (he’s planning to enroll in community college), he was disappointed that the pandemic cancelled graduation ceremonies. Knowing how much Sean had been looking forward to his graduation, Jordan and Shay surprised Sean with a physically-distant backyard graduation ceremony attended by friends and family. There was a cap and gown, a podium, and a diploma. The event culminated when Sean delivered a speech about the difference his foster parents had made in his life. He spoke about the joy he experiences being accepted, celebrated, and loved, and how much it means to him to feel safe and at home, at last.
To some, Sean might have seemed like an unsafe bet, a young person to pass over because of a history with the juvenile justice system and struggles with mental health. It is because of people like Jordan and Shay, who know that there’s so much more than meets the eye, that individuals like Sean come to know what it’s like to have a loving family. Sean, Jordan, and Shay believe, as we do at SSYF, that every child deserves the unconditional love, commitment, and support of a family.