As a child, Joe endured constant physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father. At age 11, he was removed from his birth family and placed in the foster care system. Joe has been without a family of his own ever since.
Bouncing from foster home to foster home, Joe was always removed after weeks or months due to behavioral issues. At 15, he was placed in a group home. There, he remained until his 18th birthday, when he was discharged from DYFS care.
Without a place to live, Joe “couch surfed” at friends’ houses whenever he could; but some nights, with no place else to go, he was forced to sleep at a homeless shelter. Without a high-school diploma or GED, Joe worked part-time bagging groceries, but he couldn’t always find a way to get to work, and was inevitably fired. He quickly found that maintaining a job while homeless is very difficult; but finding a new job without an address is even harder.
In 2008, a homeless shelter counselor referred Joe to Roots & Wings, a New Jersey-based non-profit organization that provides safe housing and consistent support to young people who have aged out of the foster care system. After remaining on the waiting list for eight months, Joe was accepted into the Root & Wings residential program.
With an apartment of his own, Joe was excited to have a place to go home to every night. But most importantly, for the first time since being on his own, Joe felt supported and secure. He had someone to talk to about his fears and worries; someone to help him make decisions about what to do with his life.
While with Roots & Wings, Joe maintained a part-time job, completed his GED and began taking classes at County College of Morris. Today, Joe is a graduate of Roots & Wings residential program. He is living on his own, employed full-time and is continuing his education.
“My experience with Roots and Wings has been a positive and uplifting one…” he explained. “Thanks to members of Roots and Wings that I have had the privilege to work closely with I have been inspired to use my experience as a former foster child to help others.”
Before Joe came to Roots & Wings, there was little chance that he would complete his GED or attend college. Through Roots & Wings, Joe has learned how to take care of himself and live on his own, set and achieve goals, and chart a course for a lifetime of self-sufficiency and success.
“Members of Roots & Wings have assisted me in changing the struggles in my life into successes. I am proud of the strength I have gained, and the way I have been able to reach some of my toughest goals."