My name is Lissette Garza and I have one younger brother and four younger sisters. Watching over them had always been my responsibility and I loved my job. It was 2009 and growing up had come with struggle. My siblings and I had just arrived at St. Peter St. Joseph Children’s Home. Although home was not the best place to return to, that was my intention. I understood my family’s hardships and had already known all too well the love of my parents and relatives.
However, after three years together at St. PJ’s, we were made aware that there was ultimately no option for returning home, and the kids could not wait for me to turn of age so that I could have custody. Even if waiting for me was possible, the kids would spend years in a children’s home and after all that time I’d only be eighteen, a high school senior, with four kids and no foundation. It was impossible, the only route was adoption.
I remember taking the adoption photos in almost disbelief that there was no chance at going back to the life I knew. I was just so grateful that we all got to stay together for so long and would now go into the journey of a new life together. However, things started to not go so well with our case. Having such a large sibling group up for adoption altogether made for minimal interest from parents seeking to adopt. It was made clear to me early-on that I was the key factor in this dilemma. Not only were there so many of us but by this time I was seventeen and the odds of people looking to adopt multiple children, including one so close to adulthood, were slim to none. I was urged to remove myself from the adoption.
I was stubborn at first; I wanted to remain on board so that I could be with the kids. It wasn’t until I was made aware that our caseworker had taken the kids a few weeks after our adoption shoot to have them re-done without me, that I realized how selfish I was. My intention of remaining on board would ruin their chances at finding a family any time soon and I couldn’t possibly expect them to live in a facility for years in the meantime. I knew if I loved them and truly wanted their happiness I would have to let go. And so I did.
After the children were adopted in 2012, I remained at St. PJ’s until I graduated high school in 2014. Throughout my journey to finding myself and discovering the upcoming chapters ahead of me, St. PJ’s was there. The staff who knew me since I had first arrived were extremely supportive during my grief over the kids. A board member who was mentoring at the time took me under her wing as well. To this day she is still my intelligent, loving, amazing mentor, who has given me so much guidance and support since so long ago. St. PJ’s accepted me into their transitional living program, where I was given the opportunity to experience what life would be like as an adult in the real world. They gave me the privileges I deserved, support I needed, and responsibility. I was taught life skills and kept on the right path. They’ve helped mold me into the individual I’ve become today.
At the point when graduation was approaching I did not know what to do as it got closer and closer until my last day. I had always dreamt of college but was financially set back. I did not know where I would live or how I would be able to get textbooks and necessities for life after I left. St. PJ’s stepped in again. Myself and a few other graduates were introduced to some of the Rey Feo Scholarship Organization and the Lo Bello Women’s Association representatives. These organizations were looking to help. We were so generously offered room and board voucher, as well as, weekly grocery stipend so long as we agree to stay on the correct path and make satisfactory grades in college. St. PJ’s also arranged that I had all the household essentials for my new apartment and even helped us to transition on our last day. Thanks to The Rey Feo Scholarship, Lo Bello Women’s Association, St. PJ’s Children’s home, and my lovely mentor Joanna, my dreams were made a reality.
I have been given, so many shoulders to lean on, happy memories, and amazing resources/support throughout my journey through foster care. It wasn’t always easy but when I look back, the good easily outweighs the bad. I am humbled by how much I am cared for and am beyond grateful for everyone who never gave up on me and has helped get me where I am today. My mission now is to give my siblings a role model to look up to, so that they can follow in my footsteps someday. I am still watching over them, I still love that job.