Shenandoah Chefalo was 13 when she first went into foster care. Prior to that her life had been filled with neglect, abuse, and isolation. At times, her stuffed animals were her only friends, and her mother and stepfather starved her as a means of discipline. Unfortunately, once in foster care, her story didn’t get much better. Shen’s foster parents used her as a a source of income. They provided a roof over her head and food, but not much else. The pattern of neglect and isolation continued.
Living the Nightmare.
Shenandoah was still alone in the world, with nobody to love her. At 17, she was in a terrible car accident. She woke up alone in the hospital, with a letter from her mother on her bedside table. “This could have turned out much better if you’d have died,” it read. That was the last time Shen ever heard from her. She spent weeks in the hospital, with only the occasional check-in from her foster family.
Shen says that lying in that hospital bed, she wished each time she fell asleep that she wouldn’t wake up. “No one cared if I lived or died. No one cared if I disappeared forever.” It was the first time she remembers feeling that way, but it was certainly not the last.
Telling the Story.
Shenandoah shares her story in her book, Garbage Bag Suitcase. Describing the book is so hard because you don’t want to use words like, “good,” or “great,” or “captivating.” Because although it is, those words are not grave or weighty enough to describe the contents contained within its pages. What I’ll say is this – it is a well-written, heartbreaking story that everyone should read – especially those who want to fight for children in the foster care system. Because this isn’t just Shenandoah’s story – it is the story of hundreds of thousands of children all over the United States.
Tackling the Crisis.
Today, Shenandoah is happily married with an amazing 16-year-old daughter. She is a fierce advocate for foster care reform. Shen travels the country speaking about her experiences, discussing what we can do to improve outcomes, and training on the effects of trauma. She brings a conversation of hope to a broken system. Shenandoah’s book does not just find fault or point out flaws. It offers possible solutions we could employ within the foster care system to provide hope and healing to wounded children. Shen sets out to inspire solutions for a current nationwide crisis.
A crisis that Crossnore tackles head-on every day. A system that we know doesn’t work. A system we do differently.
Did you know:
- About 61% of children age out of foster care without having a place to live?
- Less than 3% will go to college?
- Over 50% are unemployed and over 80% will become a parent and go on to receive some form of public assistance within two years of aging out?
- That over 80% of inmates housed in state and federal prisons have been in foster care at some point in their lives?
We could go on and on and on. But we will climb out of the mire of the negative and strive to do things differently every day. We know with certainty that these outcomes can be changed. A safe place to live, a quality education, and therapeutic interventions can make all the difference. Doing it the right way can change the trajectory of a child’s life. And we want you to be part of that conversation.
Working for Change.
Shenandoah will be speaking on March 28th at a special fundraising luncheon in Hendersonville. Would you consider joining us? You will get to hear Shen tell her story, and together we can talk about the future of foster care. Everyone who comes will also receive a free signed copy of Garbage Bag Suitcase.
It is important work we are doing, Friends. And we so badly want to raise awareness, funds, and passion for a brighter future for North Carolina’s most vulnerable children. Won’t you join us?