Last January, sixteen-year-old Ja’Nya endured series of misfortunes that led her to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Before being connected to Youth Outreach Services (YOS), she frequently got into trouble and had little support or guidance. “Before, it was a struggle for me,” says Ja’Nya, “but now, since I became a part of [YOS], I changed a lot…I came to YOS to be a better me.”

At YOS, we believe that a holistic approach is best when treating youth, meaning that we work on improving all aspects of their life and involve many people in their treatment plan, such as the caregiver, community members, friends, or school personnel. We ask them to join the youth on their unique journey towards overall health and a positive life path. It is this support system that carries each youth long after our services are done.  

Ja’Nya was placed in multiple residential centers via DCFS but always had hopes of being placed into foster care where a caregiver could offer a more permanent home. After 10 months between two residential facilities, she was placed with a caring woman named Rebecca, who Ja’Nya now calls Mom. Rebecca says that she has always been family-oriented and active in her community. “Nya brought me to ya’ll,” explained Rebecca, “I’m happy that she is here with me.” Ja’Nya says Rebecca is one of her closest allies, that she has been “in my corner always and has never let me down.”

Ja’Nya represents so many youth who desire additional mentorship, community support and a family who loves them. She is fortunate that YOS was able to find her a safe home and a loving caretaker. She continues to receive support and resources from Youth Outreach Services’ case worker, Hayley, who has made such a positive impact. 

This modern-day family still has their ups and downs, like any other family. They continuously work on communication skills, together with Hayley. “It’s still a struggle, but I now have more support.” Ja’Nya now calls Rebecca and Rebecca’s son, Mikey, family. Even Mikey has enjoyed having a sibling, saying “so far, having a sister has been great. I have someone to talk to and play video games with.”

The future looks bright for this family, and Youth Outreach Services hopes to continue to help more just like them. Ja’Nya now loves basketball, track and field, and writing. “I’ve learned that I can’t let negativity get to me,” she says, “I’ve grown by changing my ways. I see myself going to college, owning my own place to help the homeless, [and] supporting youth with anything that they’re going through.”

This child’s story may be afflicted by hardships, but there is a silver lining in everyone’s challenges. Through their struggles, each has found resilience and a loving relationship to carry them humbly throughout their journey.

Help ensure every youth realizes their silver lining in life. Donate at YOS.ORG/DONATE or text @YOSCARES to 52014.

Join the discussion on social media!