Mackenzie’s Journey of Empowerment
I can barely believe all that I have been able to accomplish. I now have hope for my future.



Like many of the youth in foster care, Mackenzie*, a transition-age youth, had been traumatized at a young age.  Having never had the chance to fully process and heal from this trauma, Mackenzie struggled to manage her emotions. Eventually she was placed in a local group home. 


She ran away from the home on several occasions, which put her at risk of exploitation.  For her own safety, Child Protective Services moved Mackenzie to a facility more capable of providing her the intensive care and treatment she needed.  Unfortunately, the facility was hundreds of miles away from Sacramento and her local community. 


After the move, a youth advocate from Stanford Sierra Youth & Families (SSYF) drove from Sacramento to the new facility every week to support and work with Mackenzie.  Youth advocates have personal experiences similar to Mackenzie’s.  They’ve been through the child welfare and behavioral health systems.  In many instances, youth advocates have been through trauma too.  They know what it’s like.  They’ve been there. 


The youth advocate supported Mackenzie in learning how to manage emotions, appropriately express her thoughts, and understand responsibility.  Slowly but surely, Mackenzie’s attitudes about life started to change.  Whereas before she claimed not to care about her future, now she was looking for a job, pursuing a plan to graduate from high school, and applying to colleges.  In the end, she graduated from high school a year ahead of schedule.  She even reunited with her father.


SSYF continued to support Mackenzie and her father through their reunification.  Two years later, Child Protective Services closed Mackenzie’s case.  Looking back, Mackenzie is astonished at how far she’d come. “I can barely believe all that I have been able to accomplish. I now have hope for my future,” she said. 


*Note: Names and identifying details were changed to protect the confidentiality of the family.