Why I Work with Youth in Foster Care

By Sherry Edwards, Treehouse Senior Education Specialist

For 25 years, I worked as a transition specialist for the special education department at a high school in Shoreline. It was there I met a shy young man named Doug, who would end up changing the trajectory of my life.

Entering foster care at the age of 17, Doug had faced unimaginable horrors and heartache at a very early age in life. He was years behind his peers in schooling, had reached an unhealthy weight and was still recovering from the traumas of his early childhood.

Doug landed in a family group home, where he was treated with kindness and love and began the slow journey back to a more normal life. This is when I met Doug. In the beginning, Doug would hardly even make eye contact with me. When he spoke, which was rarely, he struggled to put long thoughts together. Our relationship started off rather awkward.

Over time, Doug and I worked together on lots of important life skills. Some were simple, like learning to use a search engine or how and why to get a haircut. Then there were some that were more difficult to learn, like how to deal with irritating peers or even how to be a student.

Doug continued to persist. He gave school his everything and learned things like math and technology. Most importantly, he learned how to allow for help from other people.

We started to connect in a way that was different, and I got to watch Doug learn and grow over the years with a kind of resilience that is unfathomable. Despite the adversity in his life, he would go on to graduate from high school and be one out of 50 students in the state to be awarded the Governor’s Scholarship.

When I applied to Treehouse, Doug wrote me a recommendation letter. I never worked with him as an Education Specialist, but it was Doug who inspired me to pursue this new possibility. He has survived and thrived through some of the worst situations life could throw at a person. I’m so inspired by him that I changed my career of 25 years in order to work with more kids like Doug.

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About the Author

Sherry has been a Senior Education Specialist at Treehouse for two years. She previously had a similar role with the Shoreline School District for more than 25 years. She calls Shoreline her home and lives with her two teen boys, her husband and her three cats.

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