Stories of Recovery

Matt's Story

How Matt reconnected with his parents and learned that he's seen and valued.

I’ve learned many things while living in foster care, but my major lesson was to exercise self-restraint and patience. Everything is a process, and I have to stick with it. Sometimes, I have to do something blindfolded to see the results after.

Before Kaplan House, I lived in another youth residence because I had family issues at home, truancy problems in school, and thought I wanted to become a drug dealer. I had difficulty adjusting to my family situation since my mom and dad were not together, and I was always going back and forth so I could live with both of them. I also ended up ruining a relationship with one of my family members completely. That’s essentially the reason why I am here in foster care.

After I matured enough to handle more independence, I was referred to one of The Jewish Board’s youth residential programs, Kaplan House. I chose to live there because of the structure that the staff establishes for the residents, and I needed that. I love being in Manhattan, but more importantly, they offer such great support. If I had any issues, I had a social worker. Tutors are there to help with my studies. The milieu counselors are family to me. If I feel like I’m by myself or anything, I can go downstairs, and they’re there. Everyone at else Kaplan supports me, as well. It makes me feel valued. I know that I am valued.

At Kaplan House, they go above and beyond. For example, I still attended school in Westchester when I went there. Because my counselors knew I had truancy problems, they provided a bus to take me all the way up there every day.

Kaplan House’s tutors worked with me one-on-one to really ingrain the material in my head, and that experience was so important because it was a moment where I could sit with someone, and they are just trying to help me. If there was a problem, we had to figure out the answer together. Sometimes, I would go to tutoring, and I would be exhausted and frustrated, but my tutor was just there to help me push through it. That’s my motivation, knowing I have someone there for me. For me only.

Their support not only helped me transition from Westchester to Manhattan but also led to me becoming valedictorian of my high school.

Just because I’m in foster care doesn’t mean I don’t have a relationship with my parents. The staff at Kaplan House does everything they can to help me stay connected with them. I recently celebrated my dad’s 50th birthday in Florida, and Kaplan House paid for my trip there. We had all of the family together—my dad’s brothers and sisters, all of my cousins on my dad’s side, of course, and my brother. I was even confident enough to make a speech to my dad in front of all my family, putting half of the room in tears.

I appreciate my dad and am so thankful he’s in my life. Kaplan House helped to make that happen.

If I were going to give advice to someone going into foster care, I would tell them that they are valuable, unique, and irreplaceable. Their life is still beginning every day they wake up, and they shouldn’t take it for granted. I’d also encourage them to take advantage of the supportive staff and the resources they have available – build those relationships with the staff because they come to work each day to help you.

Most importantly, your education will change your life. My education showed me how to help myself and others, be more considerate, and make decisions with substance, ethics, and understanding. My education improved who I am and what I can do, and that matters. And once you set that foundation for yourself, you can assist others in setting theirs.

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