Seneca Family of Agencies – Meet Celeste

“It takes a lot to know what you want,” Celeste says. “I didn’t really start to learn who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life until I came to Seneca.” Dressed in boots and jeans with a stylish handbag slung over her shoulder, Celeste looks the part of a college student. It’s hard to believe that only a couple years ago, this young woman with such energy and confidence was just an anxious high school student, trying to get along with her foster mother, worrying about her younger sister, who was also in foster care and trying to stay connected to her biological mom. Celeste knew if she wanted to go to college she had to get good grades. When asked about her journey to college, she was quiet for a minute and looked like she was remembering a younger, more vulnerable version of herself. “When you’re in foster care, you’re not thinking about college or the future, you’re thinking about where am I going to have my next meal and is it safe to go back to my foster home.”

Celeste was just 7 years old when she and her younger sister were taken from their mother, who was struggling with drug addiction. On two different occasions, Celeste and her sister went back home to live with their mother, only to find themselves back in the foster care system after their mother relapsed. For Celeste, moving from one foster home to another meant frequently changing schools, communities and access to any real sustainable support system. Over the course of high school, Celeste attended three different schools, which isn’t uncommon experience for youth in foster care. Changing schools often means failing grades and lost credits and makes graduating within four years almost impossible. According to the National Foster Care Institute, high school drop-out rates are three times higher for youth in foster care.

“The foster system is much more focused on what is happening with the youth now rather than looking at the future,” says Lillian Conboy, Celeste’s Support Counselor with Seneca Family of Agencies, who believes that foster youth need to be supported but also empowered. “At Seneca I was given the option to make my own choices, which is not something I have ever been given the option to do,” says Celeste. “Your (county) social workers will tell you what’s going to happen. They don’t ask you what you want or are you ok with this, they will just tell you straight up.”

“Helping our foster youth have a voice in the process is critical,” says Lillian, who helped Celeste track down high school transcripts, edit her college essays and complete all her financial aid forms.

Celeste, now a sophomore at UC Merced, majoring in Chemistry and Public Health, hopes to practice medicine at a community clinic. Youth in foster care are some of the most peripheralized populations and far more likely to experience unemployment, homelessness and incarceration. By helping our youth in foster care like Celeste access higher education, you are committing an act social justice.

Join us by investing in these deserving young people and help make the dream of college accessible to everyone!

Seneca collaborates with Celeste’s family, teachers and community to assist in overcoming past trauma and abuse to set her on a path to success. Through a commitment to Seneca’s Unconditional Care, we do whatever it takes to help children and families thrive. Your investment helps ensure the highest quality care for children often overlooked by a broken child welfare system.

“A trauma-informed approach (to children who are struggling) is imperative … it is the difference between saying ‘what’s wrong with you’ and ‘what happened to you’.” -Ken Berrick, Founder and CEO, Seneca Family of Agencies

Seneca believes that children and youth do not themselves fail, but are failed by systems unable to address their complex and specialized needs. As an organization that has been rooted in the field of foster care and adoption for over 30 years, Seneca’s UNCONDITIONAL CARE© model reflects our commitment to doing whatever it takes to help children and families thrive. Families built through adoption, foster care and kinship care have unique needs and challenges throughout each developmental phase of their family’s life cycle. Unfortunately, the complexities of adopting a child with a history of neglect, trauma and/or multiple attachment disruptions can quickly overwhelm even the healthiest of families. Without trauma-informed care, too many youth will disrupt from their newly formed families. Through a continuum of services aimed at supporting children’s educational, mental health, and permanency needs Seneca’s support is truly unconditional.

Providing permanency and stability to Southern California children and families. UNCONDITIONALLY

While the national average of adopted children returning to the foster care system is 25%, no child adopted through Seneca in Southern California has returned. Your investment empowers us to maintain our 100% permanency rate!

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