Open Your Heart, Open Your Home, & Open a World of Possibilities for Youth in Foster Care

May 21, 2021

Shenika was 15 when she met her foster mother, Romania. Like most children in care, Shenika was nervous — skeptical, even — at the prospect of living with someone she barely knew. However, there was an energy and magnetism about Romania (pictured left) that Shenika (pictured right) said put her at ease.

“Romania asked if she could hug me the first time we met,” Shenika explained. “I wasn’t really a hugging-type person, but I thought, ‘Maybe I can just let up a little.” And by letting up, Shenika was able to let Romania in. Romania later adopted Shenika, as well as another teen, Na’diya.

“If I didn’t take the opportunity right then and there,” Shenika said, “there’s no telling where I’d be.”

Shenika’s now 22 and has a 1-year-old child of her own. She credits Romania for helping shape her into the woman she is today. She also credits the support she received from UMFS Treatment Foster Care staff (TFC).

“Having people that are stable and in your corner is a great asset in life,” Shenika said, adding that her TFC workers played a critical role in her successful journey from foster care to permanency.

Mary Davies, LCSW, was Shenika’s case worker all those years ago and has fond memories of the day she placed Shenika with Romania. “When I took Shenika home to her placement with Romania, it was snowing on the way,” Mary said. “We got caught in so much traffic it took us hours to get there. We sort of bonded during that time.”

Shenika said that opportunity to connect with Mary and subsequent positive interactions elevated their relationship. “Mary wasn’t just a case worker,” Shenika said. “She was like another mom. I could call to talk to her about anything.”

Today, Mary is the Community Based Services Supervisor at the UMFS office in Virginia Beach. She can’t help but smile every time she thinks about Shenika. “She came so far in such a short amount of time,” Mary said. “I really think she just needed unconditional love and support to blossom. And she did!”

The adoration is mutual. “I just love Mary,” Shenika said. “She’s awesome.”

And as for Romania? She’s living proof that when foster parents open their hearts and open their homes. they open a world of possibilities for young people in care.

“Romania I think felt like home for Shenika,” Mary said. “Like this was a place she was safe, cared for, loved, and accepted.”