The coronavirus pandemic has brought on an urgent need for hundreds of families right now willing to offer a place to stay to children experiencing poverty and neglect.
NBC10 Boston's Latoyia Edwards shares the story of a 26-year-old Cape Cod woman, who is engaged to be married, with a promising career as a nurse's assistant.
Yneishka Medina started out as a little girl with no place to call home. At five years old, her home life was too dysfunctional for her to stay with her family.
"I remember traveling home to home...with trash bags," Medina tearfully recalled.
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Medina credits a private nonprofit called HopeWell -- that partners with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families -- with connecting her and her sister to a loving foster mom named Judy.
"She gave me the life I deserved," Medina said of her foster mom. "She helped me, achieve all my goals, my dreams."
More than 8,400 children are experiencing foster care. Right now there is an urgent need for more foster families because the number of childre suffering from neglect is skyrocketing.
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It's a fact that drives HopeWell President and CEO Shaheer Mustafa to tears.
"I'm a parent and I think about you know kids that are in tough situations, they didn't do anything to deserve their life circumstances," Mustafa said.
Since March 2020, Mustafa says HopeWell has lost 44 of its 238 families willing to provide a temporary home for children in need.
The nonprofit is desperately seeking more foster parents like Mari Gonzales.
"The fact that I'm able to just impact these kids' life, it's been amazing," Gonzales said of kids she has fostered. "You know seeing these kids smile, you know taking them to Six Flags New England, taking them to a beach for the first time.”
HopeWell is coming up with new ways to reverse a 20-percent drop in active foster families.
Mustafa says the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their journey in finding foster families.
"A number of those homes may have been thinking, 'you know what? It's about time. I'm thinking about retiring from doing this,' and then the pandemic hit, and they said, 'You know what? Now's the time,'" Mustafa ventured to guess.
HopeWell provides training, financial compensation, and around-the-clock support to families opening their homes to children experiencing foster care.
"I just want to let everyone know that if you are considering it, do it," Gonzales said.
If you’re interested in learning more about fostering, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.