(Pictured Joshua and Cassandra at Josh’s high school graduation 2019)

Joshua (he/him/his), a proud member of the LGBTQ community, entered the foster care system at sixteen to escape an abusive home life that he repeatedly ran from to keep himself safe. Once in DCF guardianship, Joshua was placed in Solenit, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescent males between the ages of thirteen to seventeen with complex psychiatric needs. Solenit offered educational programs, work experience opportunities, and rehabilitation, including therapeutic recreation and occupational and music therapies. The program model was designed to focus on treatment strategies which are trauma informed and gender responsive.

Although exposed to other youth that exhibited unfavorable behavior at Solenit, Joshua settled in and made the most of his time there knowing it was a temporary placement. He secured a paid internship at a veterinary hospital and was offered a permanent position after completing the internship. He focused on his studies in the education program, and through responsible behavior, he earned increased privileges and the freedom to explore life off-campus.

It was at Solenit that Joshua met his foster family, Cassandra and her partner Lisa. He spent time with the couple and felt comfortable and safe with them. The home environment they provided gave him the freedom to explore who he was without fear. Joshua felt living with Cassandra and Lisa was the right choice for him. Joshua said that many young LGBTQ individuals don’t experience the support and acceptance he did, and pointed out that suicide rates are high in this population.

Cassandra (she/her/hers) also identifies as a LGBTQ individual. Cassandra knew at the age of eighteen that she would become a foster parent one day. An independent young woman, she left home at eighteen and traveled across the country and lived on her own. She believes that “You can have family from anywhere” and that “having a biological child does not make that child anymore your own.” As an experienced foster parent, Cassandra believes that anyone who allows a child to be themselves creates a place of safety and acceptance.

Now eighteen, Joshua has started college, a lifelong dream, and is enjoying his independence and the relationships that he works to rebuild and retain regardless of what happened in the past. His future looks bright, and we wish him the very best as he heads out into the world with a support system firmly in place.

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