Iliana Joaquin, SLM volunteer mentor and Board member, shared her experience in the Massachusetts foster care system in an article for Boston Globe Ideas. Below is an excerpt from Iliana’s story:

I was in three homes total, which is low — the average is six to eight. My first sexual experiences were in the form of abuse in foster care, though not at the hands of my foster parents. I do think the foster parents in the other homes cared — the family in our second placement adopted my little brother and became my older brother’s guardians. But I didn’t trust anyone. I had to survive and protect my little brother. My agenda was: Get through and get out. I excelled in school and sports and saved money working two jobs, and I kept a closed heart.

I made a best friend in high school, and her family is who I consider my family now. They show up for anything that is important to me. They bought me an old car so that I could get to and from work. In an emergency, they are the people I call. I once gave them a glass postcard that says “Thank you for always being there for me. You didn’t have to get paid to do so.”

I think of that as I mentor two teen mothers in foster care. They say, “What, you volunteer?’ I say, ‘Yes, I want to be here for you. I want to be present.’” And that’s odd for them to hear, but it gives them a little more of a reason to trust me.

Read the full article on The Boston Globe’s website.