Akeena, 19, was abandoned in the hospital by her mother days after she was born. The task of raising her was left to her grandmother, Mable, a resilient and steadfast woman who is now retired after working much of her life as a nurse’s aide. The two came to JCCA’s Preventive Services division when Akeena was 9 years old, after being legally adopted by Ms. Henry. “It was so tough. Right from the beginning, Akeena had problems with sleeping and crying. When she got older, she started getting into trouble, having fights at school and church, and would come home with scratches all over her. She didn’t listen to me and complained all the time. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, someone recommended JCCA and that turned everything around for us,” explains Mable.
When Akeena and her grandmother came to JCCA’s mental health clinic in Brooklyn, they felt they were finally being heard by people who could help. Akeena says, “I was always angry and stayed by myself. I hated school and didn’t get along with my grandmother. People bothered me and I got into fights. But when I met my social worker, Karen, she was real with me. She didn’t judge me, but talked and listened to me. Sometimes she told me things I didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear. I knew she really cared about me.”
They have been helped by a number of JCCA’s Preventive Services programs, including counseling, individual and family advocacy, mentoring, skill-building, intensive in-home and crisis response service, peer-to-peer support and referrals to community services and programs. Mable is currently an active member of the Family Resource Center’s Grandparents Support Group.
Now working with Guy Loving, an advocate in JCCA’s Family Resource Center, they continue to make progress. Akeena continues, “Things have gotten so much better with my grandma. School is still hard for me, but I know it’s important and I’m focusing now on graduating in the spring.” “Akeena has enormous strength,” says Mr. Loving. “She’s come a long way. She knows what she has to do and is doing it.”
After graduation, Akeena plans to go to cosmetology school to learn theatrical makeup, her great interest along with music. Her grandmother still can’t believe they’ve come this far. She elaborates with great warmth, “I learned so much from the people at JCCA. They are so loving, the nicest set of people you could think of. They would always sit and explain things to me and even take me places, if I needed help. I thank God for them and that’s the truth. They’re like a family to me.”