Carisse Phillips knew that entering foster care was a chance at a better life, but still wasn’t sure what to expect. Just 10 months after joining the home of veteran foster parents Cheryl and David Shive, Carisse’s life has changed in ways she never could have imagined. The Gazette reports:
“Before I went into foster care I wasn’t even thinking about going to college,” said Carisse, 17, who was the 25th child the Shive family had fostered.
Carisse, who graduated this month from Clarksburg High School, recently received two competitive scholarships [to attend Towson University].
It wasn’t that long ago that Carisse was too busy trying to be an adult to focus on school. Her father passed away when she was 10 and her mother was struggling with mental illnesses, which meant Carisse and her older brother were often on their own:
“Sometimes we’d go months at a time in the house by ourselves,” she said. “We were too young to really understand how to take care of ourselves.”
For two years prior to coming to the Shives, Carisse said she did poorly in school with the stress of “trying to be an adult” taking up much of her focus. Then one day her mother kicked her out of the house.
“Ever since then I never thought of going back,” she said. “I was sick of having to fend for myself.”
At first, Carisse stayed with a friend’s family, but was eventually placed with the Shives. They’ve been fostering kids since 1999 and they quickly made her feel at home:
“They didn’t treat me like another kid who was going to be in their house for a week, they treated me like I was going to be here forever.”
Soon after, Carisse’s grades improved and–rather than join the military as she had planned–now has her sights set on becoming an elementary school music teacher. As she prepares to leave for college, she admits she’ll miss the Shives and has a message for them that she wants to share:
“Thanks for treating me like I was your kid,” she said.