MICHIGAN: Ryan* was a preteen when he entered the foster care system with his three
younger siblings. They became wards of the state because of allegations of abuse, neglect, homelessness, and substance abuse. Fortunately, his grandmother adopted Ryan and his siblings after they entered the system.
Ryan faced some serious mental health challenges, which were understandable given all he had been through in his short life. When it was time for Ryan to be discharged from a therapeutic facility,
his grandmother made a tough choice. Although she loved Ryan very much, she felt she could no
longer provide the level of care he required. So, Ryan re-entered foster care a second time
as a 14-year-old.
Ryan had no choice but to live in a series of residential programs before he moved into the
Samaritas’ Independent Living Program, a transitional program designed to prepare foster teens
for adulthood. The program accepts youth from all counties and is based in a rental
property, within a community, as opposed to a walled-off community or campus-type setting.
Many who worked with Ryan feared that he would age out of Samaritas without family support.
Then one day, Colleen, a Samaritas Family Finding Specialist, typed Ryan’s parents’ names
into People Search and generated more family members’ names to build a
substantial family tree for Ryan. When a blue circle popped up on Ryan’s father’s name, much
like a leaf does on Ancestry.com, Colleen clicked on the blue circle that populated Ryan’s
cousin’s latest contact information. The Director of the Independent Living Program called Ryan’s
cousin, Denise*, to see if she was interested in connecting with Ryan. She was thrilled to get
that phone call.
“I’m so glad you called. I’d been looking for Ryan for years!” Denise said.
It turns out that Denise had lost touch with the numerous changes Ryan experienced while
moving around in foster care. Ryan and Denise were excited to reunite with each other after years of disconnection.
Ryan is now living with Denise and establishing connections with his other family members.
Because of Colleen’s incredible work on the Family Connections tool, Ryan will not age out of foster care
alone. He is now surrounded by his biological family.
Connect Our Kids is a non-profit dedicated to leveraging technology to find families, build
connections, and create a community for children in the foster care system. Want to help more
children like Ryan? You can today by donating HERE.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.