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Thursday, Mar 3, 2016

Foster Care Alumni Spotlight: Mia

imageMia’s story is one of perseverance, understanding, and hope—it all fueled her to grow up to be the ambitious seventeen-year-old who dreams of  becoming a case worker and forensic scientist.

Placed in foster care at nine years old, Mia spent years with different foster families. On top of moving from home to home, bullying at school made things even harder. “Everyone used to pick on me for not living with my mom,” said Mia. She stayed resilient when peers treated her badly, and knew that she wanted to treat people better than that.

One moment caused Mia to realize that she wanted to devote herself to lifting up children in foster care. “I saw this baby who couldn’t crawl and walk correctly because no one had taught him how,” said Mia. “Seeing that broke my heart. I realized that I need to do something to help kids who are in my situation.”

Mentee to mentor

Social work isn’t the only the career path Mia plans to pursues when she graduates from high school.

Her passion for forensics sparked during a mentor-mentee program she was a part of in fifth grade. “[During the project,] we had to figure out who committed a crime, and I fell in love with it. I love the DNA factor, how little fibers of anything can be traced to any person, testing DNA by lifting fingerprints—I loved it.”

Mia is now a senior in high school and works to empower others as a cheerleading coach. Four years of cheerleading have helped her build the skills to excel in the sport while also growing into a team leader and peer mentor. Even in the off-season when she’s not coaching, her younger teammates look up to Mia and seek her advice and guidance.

“Even when football season is over, they still ask me for help,” said Mia. “It’s great that they look up to me. They’ll ask me about school, and we talk in our group chat on Facebook.”

Mia’s mentorship on and off season is important to her teammates’ success both in cheerleading and in navigating the landscape that is high school. She has fully embraced her place as a positive role model and admits that being a great role model to those around her is always on her “to do” list.

“Blood doesn’t matter.”

As she nears the end of high school, the image of becoming a caring resource for children in foster care becomes clearer. “I want to change a lot of things about my county and improve them, so that children don’t feel unwanted,” said Mia. “When I had my permission slips signed by the commissioner, I felt like a case number. I want to change that.”

According to Mia, spending years in foster care makes her better equipped to understand the anxieties, fears, and frustrations of other children in foster care. Adopted in 2014 by Cindy and Jeff Wheeler, who also grew up in foster care, Mia has her own loving support system. Sharing the perspective of living in several foster homes during their childhoods, Mia and her parents deeply understand each other and have a strong family bond. Mia watched her adoption happen and knows how much her parents wanted her to be part of their family.

“They fought for me to stay here, and that’s what really opened up my eyes,” said Mia. “That really showed that they are my family, no matter which way you look at it, blood or not.”

For now, Mia has some advice for children entering foster care: “It’s amazing knowing that an entire family that isn’t blood related can love you just as much or even more than your blood family. Blood doesn’t matter. If an entire family wants you to be their child, take it and run with it. Be happy and be the best person you can be.”

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