HOUSTON - When we think about our childhood, usually happy memories come to mind, but that's not always the case.
"I have my foster care because my mother did drugs," said a teenage-girl, who to protect her real identity, we'll call Jane. "There would be times when my mom… she wouldn't be home… and she would leave us for a couple of days."
You also hear stories of neglect and abuse.
"And she hit me," recalls Paula, not her real name either. "I had a whole bunch of abrasions on my face."
For their own safety, these and many more kids have to say goodbye to their biological families at an early age. Thanks to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, they are able to live with foster parents that take care of them, in most cases. They've been in "the system", as they call it, almost all their lives. But once these teenagers become emancipated adults, they're on their own.
"Technically, perhaps… but not necessarily," explained Allison Wells Smith, coordinator of the TDFPS PAL program. "Young adults up to age 21 are eligible to get supportive services and benefits to help them become self-sufficient and productive."
The PAL program, which stands for Preparation for Adult Living, aims to give them the skills necessary to start a new life as independent adults, so they can make their own decisions and build a positive future.
"Before I got into the CPS I thought: I'm done with life, nobody care about me…", Paula expressed. "I was like what's the point of going to college?"
Volunteers from all over Houston, including the Houston chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, have been supporting this initiative for years.
"Foster kids take classes and learn how to live on their own," said former NCJW President Beverly Sufian. "Today, our volunteers are helping them figure out budget planning and how they're gonna manage their own money."
These kids are a great example of how to transform a life of hardship into something meaningful.
"I always wanted a different life," said Jane. "I wanted more, and these people… they wanted to help me."
And now it's time to dream big.
"I wanna major in business management," Paula revealed.
We don't choose our circumstances, but we always choose what to do with them.