Courage & Connection: She Deserves All The Good Coming Her Way

As 19-year-old Kelsey walks across her college campus, she greets friends and classmates. People know her as a dedicated student and a kind person. What they don’t know is that sheer determination got her here … or how much she endured in the child welfare system. Kelsey’s strong inner motivation and the valuable mental health therapy she received from Wayfinder changed her life’s trajectory.

Kelsey and her younger sister and brothers were removed from their home due to physical abuse when Kelsey was age 6. While her younger siblings have had stable foster placements, Kelsey has lived with nine different families. For children, each placement change is a trauma with psychological consequences that can produce poor outcomes in education, relationships and behavior.

In high school, she experienced another trauma when a couple who wanted to adopt her changed their minds. That’s when Marlane, a Wayfinder therapist, got Kelsey’s case. Marlane knew the teen was feeling rejected. “I explained that it wasn’t her fault—the adults weren’t prepared to adopt.”

In therapy, Kelsey worked on controlling her anxiety. She worried so much that she was unable to sleep or function. Marlane had Kelsey set a timer—worry over an issue for five minutes and then move on. Kelsey called Marlane when she was feeling overwhelmed, and Marlane reminded Kelsey to use her coping skills.

Kelsey saw her sister often but not her brothers. When Kelsey turned 18, she bought a car, in part to see the boys. She asked how to approach the brothers’ foster parents. “I pretended to be a foster parent,” Marlane says, “and we did different scenarios.” After Kelsey called the foster parents, she texted Marlane excitedly, “Foster parents agreed to once a week!”

Given the educational disruptions Kelsey experienced when she changed placements, it took determination and hard work for her to complete high school. Kelsey says, “I don’t want to be another statistic,” referring to the 50% of foster youth who don’t finish high school and the 96% who do not earn a college degree.

Kelsey’s resourcefulness and drive kicked into high gear for college. She was accepted into more than one university, choosing a Cal State campus. She received six scholarships.

Now Kelsey lives in the dorms, and she is communicating more with peers. “She is not as anxious,” Marlane says. “She’s a different person now.”

Kelsey is moving forward. “I want people to know me for who I am, not where I’ve been,” she says. In therapy, Kelsey is focusing on the present—getting through college without any family support. “I am really proud of her,” Marlane says. “She deserves all the good that’s coming her way.”


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December 21, 2023