Former Children’s Trust Healthy Families participant Regina Serverius knows what it’s like to age out of the child welfare system and face the prospects of homelessness. Regina spent her youth bouncing around foster homes and residential placements but when she turned 18, the system no longer supported her, and she was on her own. Luckily, Regina’s DCF case worker introduced her to a program called Safe Harbor that provides transitional-age youth with support to find and maintain stable housing. When she became pregnant, she also enrolled in the Children’s Trust Healthy Families program. Between the support from Safe Harbor and Healthy Families, she was able to give her children a stable, loving home.
Where are they now: Regina Serverius
Unfortunately, not all transitional-age youth learn about programs like these, and as a result, their outcomes are not always positive. Youth who age out of child welfare without support face an increased risk of homelessness, substance use, and incarceration.
Now, years after graduating from Safe Harbor and Healthy Families, Regina has built a career supporting others who need programs like those that helped her. Regina works for North American Family Institute (NFI) Massachusetts, which runs the Safe Harbor program, and Regina is the program director of the newly opened NFI Lofts, a home for five young adults (ages 18 to 22) who are transitioning out of foster care or residential placements toward independent living.
“Our residents are used to the structure of residential living. Before we had a program like this, they would go from a residential home to their own apartment. There was no in between, which is a struggle because they never learned the skills they need to live on their own,” said Regina.
“They struggle emotionally due to the overwhelming changes of the transition to independent living and need extra support. They are used to 24 hours of support from staff and living in a group environment. We meet residents where they are at. Many don’t know how to cook so we are teaching them how to read recipes, how to go grocery shopping, and plan menus. We’re also helping with resume building, doing laundry, applying for a job, opening a bank account, how to do their taxes, job searching, and getting them involved in the community (like going to church, volunteering, or building natural supports). We help them learn how to organize their time and practice self-care. It’s all the skills they need to learn to help them thrive and be independent adults in the community.
Regina says that her lived experience helps her connect with the residents so that they can see there is HOPE. Even after all they have been through, they can become successful, independent adults. Regina now lives in New Hampshire with her two children, Julian and Jayden, who are 6 and 10 years old. She says her kids love playing soccer and basketball. They are doing well and enjoying the summer before entering 2nd and 5th grade. She is also in a happy relationship and has a healthy co-parenting relationship with her children’s father.
“My dream one day is to open a home for teen moms. Kids like me come out of the system and don’t always have good role models in their lives. We don’t always know how to be a good parent; I had services in place and people in my life who helped me become the person I am today. Not everyone is lucky to have that. I want to create a safe place for young moms to offer support and learn the skills they need to be successful. Everyone deserves a chance,” she said.
We are so proud of the beautiful life Regina has created for her family and the work she is doing to give back to others.