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Success against all odds: From aging out of foster care to UK College of Social Work graduate


By Lindsey Piercy
University of Kentucky

Can you recall a time when you felt the odds were stacked against you?

这是你最有可能用于随意谈话的常见短语。对于塔玛拉背心,“赔率堆积在我身上”不仅仅是一个简单的句子,总结了一个不幸的情况。这位23岁的孩子很少得到成功的公平机会。

在每一切成功后面,她有一个充满斗争的故事。

“我的童年很粗糙,至少可以说。”

Tamara West准备提供2020年12月英国开始的学生地址。背心计划通过在社会工作中使用学位来帮助促进青少年来引导她的热情。(英国照片)

作为孩子,我们大多数人都相信童话故事。但背心没有故事书成长。在9岁时,当她父亲失去与癌症的斗争时,现实。

“我不得不在殡仪馆中进行,因为我拒绝离开。背心说,这总是我挣扎着。“当我还是个孩子时,它伤害了我。但我从来没有完全明白损失,直到我年纪大了。“

损失是巨大的,因为他是主要的照顾者。与此同时,背心的母亲面临着自己的战斗。无法逃避无情的隐形物质滥用,她无法照顾背心。

Lengthy and tiring court proceedings ensued.

Eventually, her older brother was awarded custody. Due to the tumultuous nature of his household, Vest found herself wishing she had been placed anywhere but there.

“It was the most traumatic experience of my life. Going through just about every kind of abuse you could imagine as a young child and teenager was extremely hard,” she said. “Even though they were my kin, I felt unwanted and unwelcome. I hated to go home, and school was an escape.”

但随着每个下午钟的戒指,背心被运回现实。

“I was scared to speak up in fear that it might make the situation worse, or that I would end up in foster care — ironically.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

最终,背心开始向学校辅导员致以持续的心理和身体虐待。在同一时间,她从学校回到家中,一个下午才能被告警包装她的包包。

“我16岁,我的兄弟决定不想再照顾我,所以他带我去了一个无家可归的避难所。”

背心在Arbor青年服务的接下来的两个月里度过了一个儿童和青少年的庇护所,然后被安置在寄养家之前。

在她的安置时,一个社会工作者告诉背心,列克星敦只有一个家庭培育青少年 - 带来焦点一个很少被解决的问题。“似乎缺乏想要在一定年龄段的孩子身上养育孩子。”

背心留在福斯特家里只是害羞一年。

“无论年龄岁,你永远不会长大,让某人关心你,为某人爱你和一个家庭,”她继续。“我觉得我永远不会拥有一个自己的家庭。我觉得我永远不会被我被接受,而且我当然觉得我的存在是美元的迹象。“

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背心厌倦了被使用。

So, at 17, she decided to take part in a program that provided an apartment. By definition, Vest was still a child, but she learned to embrace a new lifestyle — one that required confidence and independence.

Vest received assistance with paying rent and was given a grocery stipend. The only caveat — she either had to be in school full time, working full time or be part time for both.

“很难,因为我没有任何支持。我真的不得不教授自己如何烹饪。我也从来没有能够获得许可证或驾驶执照,“背心继续。“我面临挑战能够倡导我的需求并满足我的需求。”

Once she turned 18, Vest had the option of leaving foster care or recommitting until she was 21. Fed up with “being in the system,” she decided to embark on a new journey.

坚定不移地更好,背心开始于蓝洁界和技术学院的大学职业 - 追求政治学的学位。然而,她很快就意识到了激情就没有。

“During my time off, I reflected,” she said. “I thought about the people who brought about positive change in my life — they were social workers. So, I decided to start there.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

背心返回到BCTC,并在社会工作中重点赢得了副学士学位。2018年,她转移到肯塔基大学的社会工作学院(Cosw) - 打破了每个统计数据,告诉她,她无法追求高等教育。

Vest felt more prepared than ever to earn a bachelor’s degree. But continuing her education wasn’t without challenges.

“学院的工作人员非常支持,”她说。“终于是一个有价值和接受的环境。”

背心信用人员Kalea Benner和Diane Loeffler和Dean Jay Miller是令人难以置信的资源。“我相信这些个人的灵活性和支持帮助我认识到自己内心的优势在我的本科旅途中取得成功。”

Kalea Benner

“Tamara’s perseverance is a testimony to her grit and determination to ensure she can help others create positive change,” Benner said. “Using the very factors that challenged her as motivation to make sure others are positioned to succeed, truly reflects the values of the social work profession. Tamara manifests the Wildcat spirit in all that she does.”

在那精神,背心想知道她如何帮助别人取得成功。

During her time at UK, she was introduced to Voices of the Commonwealth (VOC) — an organization that advocates for foster youth. Vest was asked if she would be interested in telling her story and, emphatically, said yes.

But her work with VOC became more than just telling her story. Vest soon found herself doing work she at one time swore she would never get involved in — foster care and child welfare.

“I learned very quickly that my experience is vital to creating change for that population.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

As Vest prepares to graduate, 2020 has been a painful reminder that life doesn’t always go according to plan.

“As a former foster youth with no support, I relied on my income to support myself. However, my job closed during the first months of the pandemic and unemployment resources were hardly enough to cover food — let alone my rent,” she said. “I still fear that everything I’ve worked for could be taken away from me in a matter of seconds.”

But Vest also knows the power of perseverance.

不到10%的培养青年毕业于大学,她将成为其中之一。此外,背心被选为12月开始学生发言人。

“当我不相信我甚至达到18岁的时候,我生命中有时间。所以我在23岁时,收到学士学位,它超出了超现实主义者。”

但背心的旅程UK is far from over. This spring, she will be pursuing a master’s degree, while working at a private foster care agency.

Vest values her education, but she is also eager to channel her passion into purpose by helping foster teens who feel overlooked and underestimated beat the odds.

“I’m an example of someone who came from nothing and made everything for myself. It is a long process, it is a hard process, but the results are so worth it. Investing in yourself and your future is never something you will regret.”


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