Maria is just like any other teenage girl. She has multiple activities on her plate – school, sports, and theatre to balance all at once. She is doing well in school and is planning to attend college after she graduates.
But Maria is different from other teens – she no longer lives with her family, and never will again.
After becoming a ward of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) due to severe neglect by her mother, Maria was placed in foster care, moving in and out of several families’ homes. As a result, Maria suffers from severe anxiety and depression to the point where she was exhibiting suicidal behavior. Maria was hospitalized for stabilization in a psychiatric hospital and afterwards, due to the failed foster home placements, she was put in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) near Chicago. Maria thought she would see her family again.
However, in October 2021, the RTC Maria was staying at referred her to Nexus-Indian Oak Family Healing’s Lighthouse Girl’s Group Home, which was a turning point for Maria.
At Lighthouse, Maria was given direct support and supervision while she developed independent living skills. Working directly with staff, she was able to disclose and discuss her fears which helped with her anxiety. Maria was able to successfully transfer to the public high school and express her fears and anxieties about that transition in a healthy way.
Maria has always had an interest in acting and auditioned for the high school musical. Though she wasn’t selected, she completed an audition, a tremendous feat, and instead of feeling discouraged, went and sought out her own acting opportunities and found a local theatre group. She powered through her fear of auditioning and got a role – Hathi, the mother elephant in the group’s production of The Jungle Book this November. Maria was also named Student of the Week at her high school for her work in her art class. With the skills she’s learned at Nexus-Indian Oaks she can balance academics, school sports, and rehearsals while continuing to make progress with her mental health and life skills.
Maria still struggles with not seeing her family regularly. While she will never be allowed to live with them again, Maria still visits them and proudly invited them to attend her theatre show, which is an important part of her healing and growth. Her case worker, working alongside DCFS, was able to secure Maria permission to travel to Chicago alone to visit family in a public place. This is a huge motivator for Maria to continue to work to overcome her fears. For now, staff will travel with Maria but when she feels ready to do so, Maria will be able to take that trip by herself.