After 16 years of moving from place to place, living with assorted relatives and family friends, Sapphire Broadnax took matters into her own hands. She found her school’s social worker, broke down and cried.
“Basically, my soul was crushed at that time. I said I just wanted to go into foster care,” she said.
After talking with her about her situation, the social worker called authorities. By nightfall, Broadnax was in a group foster home.
At first, she was thrilled with her fresh start, but happiness fizzled as the constrictions and challenges of being in foster care set in.
And then, still missing the mother who’d constantly drifted in and out of her life, Sapphire, at 17, became a mother herself. She was a foster child with a child of her own.
Dealing with school, jobs when she could get them, motherhood, financial survival, a revolving door of foster care placements and the heavy cloud of societal judgment quickly became overwhelming.
But her near breaking point became her turning point when a caseworker referred her to Teen Parent Connection (TPC). The program provides one-on-one support from highly trained life coaches including developmental screenings for children, parenting and life skills education, and assistance with resources for services and achieving educational goals through home visits and group classes.
“I was in foster care, literally at the mercy of God, trying to figure out how am I going to be able to provide for my child,” said Sapphire, who joined TPC when her son, Jamir, was six months old.
Today, at 22, she has earned her GED, lives independently with Jamir in her own apartment and is in school for the culinary arts. She’s also a mentor for the foster teen parent program, which currently serves 28 male and female parents ages 14 to 21 and has more youth on a waiting list, according to Rochelle Grice, the program’s director.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the help of TPC because support is everything,” Sapphire said. “Having TPC here to help girls like me, it really changes us.”
Pushing through the pandemic
TPC is a program of Creative Community Services (CCS), a therapeutic foster care agency serving children who typically have lived through 15 to 30 unsuccessful placements before coming into its care.
Founded in 1982, the nonprofit aims to save “aging out” foster youth from homelessness and sex trafficking, to prevent child abuse and end the cycle of foster care.
CCS also has programs that focus on improving the quality of life for adults with developmental disabilities and mental health needs.
The organization had been struggling with two years’ worth of state budget cuts when the coronavirus pandemic hit, cancelling one planned fundraiser after another.
Its fundraising is now virtual, with social media campaigns such as #TLCforTPC (givingtuesday.mightycause.com/story/Tlcfortpc).
According to national statistics quoted by CCS, half of teen girls in foster care report having been pregnant by the age of 19. And a study quoted by the organization found that more than half of LGBTQ+ youth in foster care experienced being homeless because they felt safer on the street than in their group or foster home.
A new CCS initiative – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – is headed up by Lindsie Jones, a Ph.D. student whose thesis topic is the victimization of LGBTQ+ youth.
Jones said the organization plans to develop in-house staff training, start LGBTQ+ support groups for foster parents and foster youth, and will try to reach youth beyond the nonprofit through collaboration with other agencies and eventually with schools.
“I think a lot of youth in foster care, typically they’re scared to come out because they’re scared of the repercussions,” Jones said. “It’s hard enough to come out to your own family, let alone someone who’s not even your blood family because you don’t know if you’ll be accepted. And there’s not a lot of law and legislation that protects these youth right now in Georgia.”
Moving on, but giving back
Sapphire still keeps in touch with the TPC life coach who quickly became her anchor, encouraging her, offering her “true advice,” and giving her a nonjudgmental shoulder to lean on.
The life coach monitored her baby’s development and made sure his mom got the clothes she needed to feel better about going to school, along with a laptop and supplies.
“Basically, anything I needed I got, by the grace of God,” Sapphire said. “You could tell that they genuinely cared.”
Looking ahead, her goals are to be financially stable enough to put her bills on autopay and to own a restaurant, be the best mom she can be and to always “be a better me than I was yesterday.
How You Can Help
- Volunteer: Be a mentor or a community partner. Share a skill or a hobby with youth.
- Donate: On the organization’s website or make an in-kind donation such as a stroller, new car seat or diapers for the Teen Parent Connection program.
- Contact: ccsgeorgia.org or (770) 469-6226.