Former Foster Youth Determined to Change Outcomes for Others
At 25 years old, Lacresha White is a strong, confident young woman. She recently received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland (which she convinced the school to pay for), she works for a juvenile treatment center in Baltimore, Maryland, and has launched an online life coaching and resiliency training blog. Lacresha’s mission is clear—to help foster youth learn to be resilient and to mentor them on available resources as they emancipate from the child welfare system.
Lacresha has always come across as self-assured and determined, on the outside at least. Inside she was hiding sorrow and unhealed trauma. Growing up, Lacresha’s father was a drug addict and her mother was affected by schizophrenia. She would sometimes live with her grandmother or a great aunt, but when they had difficulty caring for Lacresha, she would go into foster care. Her early childhood was a revolving door between entering foster care, then moving in with a family member, then returning to foster care. At 11 Lacresha was adopted, but the adoption ultimately failed when she was 15 and aged out in foster care at 21.
“I felt so alone in the world. I went through depression and suicidal thoughts,” Lacresha said, “but in my therapy sessions I was never given tools to manage and heal the depression. I was never taught to deal with trauma.”
Luckily Lacresha was able to manage through it, but she is a proponent of trauma-informed care for all foster youth, regardless of whether or not they “seem” to need it.
“Some therapists see you on the outside, see your accomplishments, and don’t think you are suffering from unhealed trauma,” Lacresha observed. “I needed anxiety medication and had to challenge doctors when they didn’t think I needed it. They didn’t see me as suffering.”
To realize her dream of attending college, Lacresha worked hard to locate resources and educational support programs for foster youth. She was also fortunate to find mentors and others to support her educational dreams. Lacresha understands the value of mentorship and coaching.
“I’d have a new mentor every two months or so, but one mentor in particular believed in me and took me to my college orientation,” Lacresha explained. “Having that one person who truly cares makes a huge difference.”
While Lacresha secured an educational training voucher to pay for her undergraduate tuition, her monthly cost of living stipend wasn’t enough to survive on her own. Lacresha worked between two and three jobs to sustain a healthy lifestyle, which made it difficult to maintain passing grades in community college. A co-worker learned of Lacresha’s situation and invited Lacresha to live at her home free of charge during her four years of college. Lacresha attended Frostburg State University and majored in Social Work B.S.
Despite receiving support with living arrangements, Lacresha continued to struggle to care for her needs. She worked a part time job while at Frostburg, applied and received $100 of food stamps per month, and utilized her credit to pay for additional bills. To make ends meet, Lacresha accrued $6,000 dollars of credit card debt and is currently making payments to lower the balance.
While Lacresha had to teach herself to be resilient and was persistent about finding resources to support her with school, healthcare and other personal needs, she is committed to making it easier for other foster youth who are just like her.
Today Lacresha is an Academic Success Coach through Foster Care to Success’ “Aim Higher” program, a program Lacresha participated in as a student. She mentors a former foster youth who has just begun to attend college.
Ultimately Lacresha aspires to open a private therapy practice focused on healing trauma and providing resiliency instruction. She also aims to inspire other youth with her story and create a mentoring program that reaches foster youth on a wider scale.
“While I was lucky to find people who believed in me, I also had so many who let me down and didn’t believe I would make it very far. I knew that I wanted more out of my life. I want that for all foster youth,” Lacresha said.
For more information on Lacresha’s resiliency coaching, www.strongerme.org