Adama was 12 when her mother sent her from her home in West Africa to live with a relative in Maryland. Decades of civil war,  poverty and unemployment had driven desperate parents to seek a better life for their children in the U.S., even if they had to make the long journey alone, as Adama did. The family lifeline in Maryland turned out to be abusive, and Adama, with no where else to turn, was taken into foster care.

YMCA Youth Links mentoring  exists for children like Adama. Adama was referred to the program and was matched with her new mentor, Cassandra. From the very beginning, Cassandra understood the need to create a bridge between Adama’s fragmented sense of home and belonging. Over the next 18 months, they went to restaurants that served Adama’s favorite West African food, met and talked, watched  movies and shopped. Cassandra attended meetings with school and social services personnel, taking a proactive role in advocating in every part of Adama’s life.

When things got rocky in her foster home and Adama was moved to a new home 40 miles away, Cassandra continued to visit. Not much later, Adama was again moved, this time 65 miles away. But their bond was strong. “Because of the inherent instability of being in foster care, it can be a challenge to create in the child a feeling that they are ‘safe’ and can express themselves freely without fear of destabilizing their relationships,” shares Cassandra. “Adama is still discovering her ‘voice!’ I think our relationship is the perfect place for her to practice being more assertive.”

Adama found her lifeline in Cassandra.


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