Silver Lining Mentoring mentor, Erica,* remembers the first time she met her mentee, Tamia,* “She was this amazing, bright, resilient kid, but she was so guarded.” Tamia, then 11 years old, “wasn’t an affectionate, open, or happy-go-lucky kid.”
Erica soon learned why. In her short life, Tamia had endured the kind of trauma that sadly is all too common for youth in foster care. Tamia and her sisters had been removed from their home when Tamia was nine.
From the start, Erica knew that gaining Tamia’s trust wouldn’t be easy. Initially, she estimates that she did 90% of the talking. But over time, with the support of Silver Lining’s clinically-trained social workers, their relationship blossomed.
“These kids have been through crises,” she says. “They’ve lived in multiple homes. People have been turning their backs on them their entire lives. The staff at Silver Lining said, ‘Just keep showing up. Just keep showing up.’”
And show up, she did. Erica continued to be a steady presence in Tamia’s life for the next several years. The pair, however, hit their first roadblock when Tamia was 15. At the time, she was living with her uncle in Dorchester. When problems began to escalate at home, Tamia ran away. Erica couldn’t find her. She was frantic. That’s when Evan Hubbard, her program coordinator, stepped in.
“I was awake at night,” says Erica. “He kept saying, ‘She’s going to surface.’ He had such trust in the relationship we had built over the years and confidence that she would reach out. His constant reassurance was tremendous.”
After a few months of bouncing from one friend’s house to another, Tamia finally picked up the phone and called Erica. She was now living with her grandmother in Dedham. She and Erica reestablished their relationship, but eventually, Tamia started hanging out with the wrong crowd and skipping school. Then, one day, she disappeared again. Once more, Erica turned to Evan for guidance.
“He said, ‘She knows you’re there. She’s got to get through what she’s going through,’” says Erica. “’She’s a teenager. Of course, her peers are her world.’ I so needed to hear that. Just to hear his voice on the other end of the line was so important. Evan has been so supportive through thick and thin.”
Sure enough, six months later, Tamia called. When Erica and Tamia finally reunited at Tamia’s new group home, the teenager flew out of house and ran into Erica’s arms.
“She hugged me like she had never hugged me before,” she says. “I told her, ‘You can’t get rid of me,’ and she said, ‘I know.’ For her to say ‘I know’ is worth all the sleepless nights.”
Tamia is now back in school, and has reconnected with her mother. And Erica and Tamia have resumed seeing each other every 2 weeks. Erica credits the success of their relationship—now seven years strong—to SLM’s unending commitment to its mentors and mentees, especially during the tough times.
“They are so invested,” she said. “Their emotional support is so critical to the success of the match! It’s so important to have a sounding board when you are worried about behavior or concerned about choices they are making. They help put your mind at ease when you need it, always having the best interest of the mentee at heart.”
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.