Gianna’s father, Joseph, was struggling with drug addiction when Gianna came into foster care at 11 years old. Her mother had passed away and Joseph was Gianna’s sole caregiver. As Gianna’s case progressed, her father was unable to overcome his struggle with substance use and a judge made Gianna available for adoption.
Gianna suffered immense trauma before entering foster care, both due to the death of her mother and then the loss of her father and her home when she was placed with a foster family. Growing up in the system like she did makes healing from trauma an extremely difficult process. Children heal in the context of stable relationships with loving, supportive adults. But for kids in care, stability is often the exception, not the rule.
As she entered her teen years, Gianna struggled with behavioral issues and coped with her difficult past through self-harm. She needed someone to step up, commit to her, and love her unconditionally so she could finally heal.
Edna Green, an Extreme Recruiter, was assigned to the case in May of 2017. She relentlessly searched for family who could care for Gianna the way she needed, but no one stepped up. It was difficult to find someone to adopt Gianna when no one would look past the behavioral issues to see the sweet, caring, and creative girl inside coping with her life circumstances.
In October 2019, Delaney and Judah, the parents of one of Gianna’s friends, expressed interest in adopting her. This out of the box option received opposition from Gianna’s professional team. Edna deployed Hannah Woods, a Families United Specialist at the Coalition, to meet with the family to explain the process of becoming a licensed relative placement for Gianna. Edna was sure that Hannah’s thorough exploration of this family would help the team see that this was best for Gianna. This was her forever family.
Hannah enrolled Delaney and Judah in Relative Foster Parent Training, Trauma Training, and two other trainings for youth with behavioral issues. She worked closely with them to help them understand Gianna’s past and the support she would need to overcome the trauma she had experienced. The family moved into a bigger home just so Gianna could have her own space. By this point, Gianna’s team was beginning to come around.
In December 2019, Gianna was placed in a psychiatric hospital. Her foster parent at the time would not allow Gianna to return to her home, so Hannah advocated for Gianna’s placement with Delaney and Judah rather than moving in with yet another stranger. Hannah assured the team that Delaney and Judah were ready and that Hannah would be right there with them to provide guidance and support as they navigated their new lives with Gianna.
As soon as she moved in the team knew this was the right place. Delaney and Judah were very playful with Gianna. They met her where she was at and used life experience to relate to her. Even with this positive progress, the team was still reluctant to consider this a success; they worried Gianna was just in the “honeymoon phase” of her new placement. Hannah worked hard to prepare the family for when things would get difficult.
Today, Gianna has been home for eight months. She looks better than ever, she is happier, and she is taking an active role in her own case by participating in meetings and advocating for herself. After five years in the foster care system, Gianna finally feels safe enough to heal.