Foster parents are some of the everyday heroes at Children’s Aid—providing structure and support for youth when they need it most. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s life upside down, and yet there are several incredible individuals who have gone above and beyond to help. Ms. Damayra Cacho is such a person.
Ms. Cacho is a first-time foster parent with Children’s Aid, who was initially certified to care for infants and younger children. This March, when NYC college students were being ordered to leave their college campuses to help control viral spread, there were several students who had nowhere to go. Ms. Cacho volunteered to take in Jassmin Valenzia. She described her response as a natural instinct.
“When I was told that I had to evacuate the door room, it was very shocking because I didn’t know where I would go,” said Jassmin. “And while I had hope that as a foster child they would find a home for me, I didn’t know where I would end up and it gave me a lot of anxiety.”
Foster children face many challenges, which have only been compounded by the effects of the pandemic. Young adults like Jassmin, who has not lived in foster care for many years, and was acutely affected, losing her sense of independence and direction. Luckily, in this situation, Jassmin and Ms. Cacho have taken to each other well.
“Jassmin is a fantastic young person. She is a focused student, and is trying really hard, even though she has been in the foster care system for only a few years,” she said. “I feel blessed with Jassmin. She has a good head on her shoulders and is wonderful to have around.”
Although Ms. Cacho and Jassmin had to adjust their routines to accommodate one another, they are enjoying intergenerational exchanges and excited to blend their lifestyles. Jassmin and Ms. Cacho share Latin American roots, being from El Salvador and Puerto Rico respectively. They cook together, delighting in the similarities and uniqueness of the different cultural recipes. At 21, Jassmin is tuned into today’s music and social media, which Ms. Cacho laughingly says she is learning all about—even how TikTok works.
“Since I got here, they have treated me well and I am grateful to God for this home, when I needed it the most. I have learned to cook various Puerto Rican dishes and have also tried new cuisines when we order in. I can tell they are a tight nit family. On my birthday, they made me feel special. It has been a great experience,” said Jassmin
While caring for a young adult, Ms. Cacho is mindful of providing Jassmin with space, allowing her to open up only when she is comfortable. And in fact, Jassmin has shared her childhood hardships and joys. She stays in touch with her grandmother and cousins in El Salvador and is proud of her biological family, whom she cares for deeply.
Even when the world seems to be falling apart, foster parents can help keep a sense of family together.
“I’m grateful for doing my part. Jassmin has reminded me why I decided to foster, providing a loving home for a child in need,” she said.