Like many foster children, Ciara was a troubled youth. She had a hard time making healthy relationships, was failing in school and had a generally negative outlook on life. That’s when one of Mesa United Way’s partner agencies, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids, stepped in and assigned one of its mentors, Alicia, to help Ciara navigate the twisting path of adolescence. Ciara wasn’t thrilled, to put it mildly. When Alicia set up meetings and outings, Ciara would cancel or be a no-show.

But Alicia persisted. When they did meet, Ciara was guarded, unable or unwilling to share what was on her mind. She had been disappointed and betrayed so many times in the past that she didn’t know if she could trust Alicia. But Ciara began keeping their appointments. They would go out to lunch; go to  Tempe Arts Festival; bake cupcakes at the Alicia’s home; go to a movie. Ciara was learning  that someone DID care about her, no matter her resistance. And by last spring, Alicia reported to her supervisor that “She hasn’t cancelled or re‐scheduled, so to me that’s an improvement!”

Also during this time, Alicia discussed with Ciara the need to focus on the challenge of juggling  school (which she had dropped) with having a job, especially since she would be aging out of  foster care soon.  Alicia also helped Ciara view several apartment complexes, and look into  community colleges. In August, they talked through Ciara’s relationship issue with her  boyfriend.  Alicia’s August report connected Ciara’s “lack of self‐esteem (with) a lack of healthy  past relationships.”

Alicia’s final report last fall stated that she was helping Ciara set up her apartment, and Ciara had registered with a community college.
As dedicated case workers often put it, this was a start. Plenty of challenges lie ahead for Ciara, but Alicia’s caring and determination undoubtedly helped Ciara get a healthier perspective on life, including how to build better relationships.