Yvette Winsor, 18, has been in Arizona’s foster care system since she was 2-years-old. Her journey through a system that can be “punitive, dispassionate and unfair” is eye-opening and tragic. The Arizona Republic has more on Yvette’s story:
Yvette’s story spans 16 years and at least 18 placements, including one failed adoption, one near-adoption, two guardians, several shelters and group homes, and dozens of foster mothers, fathers and siblings. It illustrates much of what can go wrong with CPS [Child Protective Services] and a little about what can go right.
Arizona’s foster-care system has more children than ever — 12,289 as of February — but fewer families willing to care for them. For the most part, group homes and crisis shelters are picking up the slack.
Yvette’s foster care experience began when both of her parents were arrested on drug charges. After she and her six siblings spent two months with neighbors in a small apartment, CPS got involved and the siblings were soon split up. Yvette’s journey included stays at crisis shelters and constant moves from foster home to foster home. Her memories of one foster family in particular show what it’s like for a young child to run into heartbreak:
“My foster mom was the most loving woman. She said I was her little girl,” Yvette said.
Does she wish she could have stayed with this family?
“I wish a lot of families would have been my family.”
Not even adoption was enough to finally end Yvette’s involvement with the foster care system. After being adopted by Meryl Winsor, the arrangement fell apart, and the adoption was dissolved by a judge. While there are conflicting accounts of what happened, one thing is obvious–Yvette had lost yet another family.
Although Yvette was placed with a relative of Winsor, Sherri Buttler, that situation would soon end in tears as well:
After less than a year, the cost of caring for Yvette and the seventh-grader’s growing defiance became too much.
“I never started off looking to be a foster parent,” she said. “I tried to hang in there and help her…. Finally, I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
Yvette said she was blindsided when Buttler, on the car ride home from school, told her she needed to pack her stuff. She remembers sobbing and writing letters to her friends telling them how much she loved them, then sneaking out of the house to leave the letters on their doorsteps. She spent the rest of seventh and eighth grade in a group home.
The cycle would repeat itself in future placements. Thankfully, Yvette’s current caseworker, Nicki Tassielli, and Tassielli’s boss, Mary Scharen, of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, were there to help Yvette make the best of a bad situation. According to Tassielli, the system carries much of the blame for what Yvette went through:
“The system has totally failed her,” Tassielli said. “This is one of those kids who fell through the cracks.”
However, even after 16 years of heartbreak, Yvette is rising above. Today, Yvette is nearing her high school graduation, working part time and getting the help she needs. While the beginning of her life story should have been much different, Yvette is on her way to creating the ending she deserves.