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Teen Puts Trust in Boys Town North Florida to Find Forever Family

Michaela was an angry 13-year-old who didn’t trust anyone.

That’s what becomes of a child who is removed from her home at age 3 and lives in more than 30 different placements during what should be her happiest years of childhood. 

Unfortunately for Michaela, there were no other options. Her terminally ill mother was an addict and there were no other family members who could care for her. Michaela’s tumultuous life in the child welfare system ended only when she was placed in a Family Home at Boys Town North Florida.

But even a stable, family-style environment wasn’t enough to immediately quiet the turmoil in Michaela’s life. The teen was expelled from two schools and suspended from another within three months of her arrival at Boys Town. It took four months of intensive therapy before she began to bond with her Family-Teachers and the other girls who lived in her Family Home.

The turning point came when Michaela realized she was part of a family that really cared for her, something she had never experienced in her young life.

Fast forward two years. Continual teaching and compassionate care had helped Michaela learn how to control her emotions, get along better with others, get back on track in school and, most importantly, trust. 

“Michaela became a very resilient girl,” said Tonia Westerfield, Director of the Family Home Program at Boys Town North Florida. “She started to have a positive attitude, believing ‘This is the life I’ve been given. I’m not going to let it get me down. It’s time to move on.’”

And the best was yet to come. While still at Boys Town, Michaela met Bill and Cynthia Jones at an event that brings together children and families that are interested in adoption. The couple, who had no children of their own, immediately took a liking to the 15-year-old. Soon, Michaela started visiting the Joneses’ home, eventually staying overnight and over weekends. 

Nine months after meeting the Joneses, she moved in with them. But just as when she had moved to Boys Town, the transition was a struggle.

“Michaela was nervous to leave Boys Town because it was the one constant in her life,” said Westerfield. “Being the only child in the household and not having all the activity and people to talk to she had at Boys Town was very difficult for Michaela. She said she would rather live at Boys Town than be adopted.”

Wanting Michaela to have a forever family, Boys Town again offered assistance. An In-Home Family Services Consultant began working with Michaela, Bill and Cynthia. Over eight weeks, the Consultant taught them skills that would help them build a healthy, lasting relationship and create a bond of trust as a family.

Michaela also was reminded that while the Joneses would be her family for life, she would always be part of the Boys Town family.

By the time the Joneses’ adoption of Michaela was finalized, the teen realized she had been taken in by a family that really did love her and she was finally in her own home to stay.

Today, Michaela is a high school senior who is involved in sports and excels in the classroom. Her goal is to follow Cynthia’s career path, eventually styling hair in the salon Cynthia operates. And she still frequently stops by Boys Town North Florida to visit her friends and staff members.

Michaela was destined to find her happy ending; it was just a matter of trust.

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names and details may be changed, and stock photos may be used, to protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.

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