Jennifer and her new parents
Jennifer grew up in El Salvador where she lived with her family in the center of constant danger and violence. She remembers from an early age seeing people lifeless, lying in the streets. “I could barely leave the house out of fear that something bad would happen to me,” she said.
“I always wanted more for my life and I wanted to go to school and become a veterinarian. I knew that was impossible where I lived. At the age of 14, I took a big risk to pursue a better life. I left home and traveled the terrifying, exhausting, month-long journey to Mexico to cross the border into the United States. I journeyed with coyotes, hoping I would reunite with relatives once there. When I finally crossed, I was immediately placed in an immigration shelter in McAllen, Texas where I felt safe but had no privacy and no love or support. I lived there for 6 months before I was finally granted asylum."
After a failed placement with a relative, Jennifer was moved into a Los Angeles foster home at age 15, where she lived for some time. She was always envious of her foster sisters because they at least had family close by that they could visit and talk to. "I felt like I was here alone here and wished I had someone to spend time with, someone to be there for me."
When she was 16, her social worker introduced her to Kidsave. “I remember that on my way to my first Kidsave event I was terrified of being judged. I was ashamed of my age but at the same time I was excited to meet new people and to make new connections. Through Kidsave I finally had a chance to have fun and do things I had never done before. I went bowling, hiking, and to museums. I could finally just be a normal teenager.”
In June of 2015, just before she turned 17, she said, “I remember seeing this couple, waiting outside my foster house, calling my name. They were there to drive me to a Kidsave event. At first, I was nervous to get in the car with them. I didn’t know them, after all. But after spending time with them, I realized they were sweet and funny, and loved animals just like I do. In fact, we have many things in common. We liked each other so much, that I moved in with them that next April. This was the first time I felt excited to come home and to share my day with two people who genuinely cared about me."
We have been family ever since. But now, I’m excited to announce that we’ve made it official! At 21 years old, I was adopted by my parents, Adam and Deborah. It feels amazing to have their last name and to call them mom and dad. I am proud to say I am a junior in college studying biology. I just finished up my finals last week. And with the support of my parents, I know I will be a vet one day. Thank you Kidsave for introducing me to my forever family and helping me reach my dreams.”