Stories of Resilience: Proactive Support Reunites a Family

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Our Family & Children Services division's Teen Families and Schools Together (Teen FAST) Program engages families living in areas with high levels of gang violence, poverty, substance use, and other risk factors with two years of education, coaching, and support that strengthen family functioning, empower teens to become responsible leaders, build circles of support among peers and families, and promote positive life outcomes.

True to the promise of the Teen FAST Program, when floods ravaged some residential areas of San Jose in February 2017, affected families had a network of support from which to draw strength and support. As the Castillo* family dealt with the confusion of displacement, they faced an even more devastating challenge: Separation. 

Just prior to the floods, Elizabeth began to experience mood and behavioral instability. The family had not yet had a chance to seek help. Concerned, social workers assisting families affected by the floods placed Oliver, 15 years old, in a group home. 

Devastated by the mother’s sudden onset of mental illness and the son’s placement in the system, Castillo embraced the support of the Teen FAST program at their son’s school. 

The Teen FAST team worked tirelessly on the family’s behalf. The mother quickly was connected with health professionals and learned that her destabilized behavior was the result of a severe eye infection requiring surgery. With mom on the road to recovery, the parents moved into a home with extended family. The team helped Oliver and his father to navigate the process and advocate for reunification. At last, the day came when they could welcome their son home with hugs and tears of relief and joy.

The Castillo family continues to be an active part of Teen FAST. Oliver, an A+ student who works hard on his academics, is now a teen leader in the Teen FAST program. As a leader, he is a role model for other teens facing adversity and instrumental in building the community of support for program families. Our team sees a bright future ahead for him.

*names changed to protect client privacy