Restoring Community

Tasha JenkinsTasha Jenkins is dedicated to improving foster care for children. She has a loving relationship with her daughter, but from her own experience, she knows what it's like to grow up without a family’s love and support.

Tasha was left in the hospital at birth, a victim of the crack epidemic. For the next 18 years, she was shuttled between a series of foster homes from coast to coast — 154 of them!

As a result, Tasha became an angry young woman whose first response was to fight. And she got into trouble with the juvenile justice system more than once, just trying to survive.

Then in 2006, she arrived at the IIRP model programs, Community Service Foundation and Buxmont Academy (CSF Buxmont), in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she finally got the kind of help and attention she needed. Thanks to a combination of support and accountability, Tasha was able to grow and to change the course of her life.

At her foster group home, she was assigned to complete community service hours (as required by the juvenile justice system). At first, she fought this, too. But when she began assisting senior citizens at a nursing home, she realized that she loved helping people. Soon, she became a leader among her peers. At the same time, a special education teacher helped her deal with her dyslexia. Her difficulty reading, once a source of shame and frustration, disappeared, opening up a new world of knowledge.

Building on this foundation, Tasha was able to earn her high school diploma, then go on to university and obtain a degree in theater. Continuing her desire to help others, she received her certification as an American Sign Language interpreter. Financial deprivation and health issues threatened her education. But despite these hardships and temporary homelessness, she persisted, and completed her studies.

Today, Tasha teaches a class for foster parents on caring for foster children, through her local Children and Youth office. And she is working on becoming a court-appointed child advocate.

In addition, Tasha has been an active part of the U.S. Congressional Caucus, helping to change legislation to improve foster care services. Her success has been recognized by national foster care programs, where she is often called upon to tell her story. "I’m going to help foster children until my last breath," she vows.