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Jennifer's Story of Triumph
Jennifer Eva Emelogu’s mother had seven children by five different fathers. Experiencing neglect and abuse on many different levels, Jennifer and her siblings didn’t quite understood why their mother did what she did until Child Protective Services (CPS) stepped in. By the time CPS stepped in, the oldest two siblings had grown up and were out on their own. The five remaining siblings were placed into care and a psychological evaluation was performed on each family member, including Jennifer’s mother. It was then that Jennifer and her siblings could make some sense of the abuse and neglect they had experienced; their mother was diagnosed as Manic Depressant, with symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia.
Immediately upon removal from their home, Jennifer and four of her siblings were taken to an emergency shelter outside of Austin; the first of five shelters they would experience.
Reflecting on her time at the shelters, Jennifer remembers,
“We started to get used to the rules of foster care, the rules of shelters. Every shelter is different -- the environment can range from extreme structure to a dangerous setting, with very little structure. Structure was not something that we were used to, but it was good for us in a lot of ways. A lot of people think that foster care should be a lot easier than living at home, but I beg to differ.”
As time passed, Jennifer and her siblings were placed in another shelter and then to their first foster home. After two years, they were removed from that home and consequently Austin Children’s Shelter became their place of refuge. Unlike her other siblings, Jennifer had the opportunity to stay at Austin Children’s Shelter on two different occasions.
Austin Children’s Shelter (ACS) was unlike any other shelter Jennifer had been to. The staff at ACS really cared about her interests and helped her achieve her short-term goals. During high school, sports were not just an interest of Jennifer’s; sports served as a form of therapy for her. Involved in both basketball and club volleyball, Jennifer wasn’t sure how she was going to attend practice for the both sports since both took place during the same season. However, each day an ACS staff member was there to pick her up from basketball practice and would take her straight to volleyball practice. After practice was over, the ACS staff would pick her up and have food prepared for her back at the shelter. This was all more than Jennifer could ever ask for, given her original circumstances.
Everyday life at the Austin Children’s Shelter was like a short-lived dream come true for Jennifer. They went on outings to local parks, museums and other special activities that ACS had planned. Around the house, there was always something to do – from endless arts and crafts options to helping out with small tasks in the kitchen (something Jennifer really enjoyed).
Austin Children’s Shelter provided Jennifer with an experience unique from that of other shelters. And it was the first shelter that Jennifer didn’t want to leave when her time was up.
At a crucial time in her life, Austin Children’s Shelter was there for Jennifer. They helped her get to practice for sports during high school and as a result of her participation in club volleyball she ended up receiving a scholarship to play volleyball at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. Completing her college volleyball career at UT San Antonio, Jennifer is now a teacher and a coach at Hawkins High School.
Giving credit to Austin Children’s Shelter for her own personal success and triumph in life, Jennifer says,
“I am not the only sibling out of foster care that has been doing exceptionally well. My older and favorite sister, Caroline, has also graduated from college with a degree in Finance. She is now the Project Manager for the ETV Program. ETV stands for the Education and Training Voucher program, a program that helps former foster youth financially through college and vocational schools. Caroline is so strong and resilient to me, she is one of my inspirations to keep going, to keep pushing in life. We are all successful in our own right.
I don’t believe in coincidences, Austin Children’s Shelter was in my life for a reason. I was more than just a name or a number. The staff cared about my emotional, physical and psychological well-being. That’s more than what a lot of people have done. I am glad to share with you my experiences because they made me who I am today. I look forward to your continued and generous support so other children can have a great experience with the Austin Children’s Shelter as well.”
Jennifer’s story is just one of many stories of triumph and hope. Click here to read more inspiring stories and learn how you can help Austin Children’s Shelter continue providing this truly effective service that provides help and hope for so many.