Based on that winning smile you would never know the challenges Demetrees Hutchins faced as a foster child. We recently sat down and interviewed her about her experiences as a teenager who took advantage of our Independent Living Program. She walked us through how she overcame many of the challenges she faced, including instability, lack of protection and little to no parenting.
Q: Describe your experience in foster care.
A: My experiences in foster care were harsh. I was placed in several different settings, ranging from foster homes to group homes, and it took its toll on me. For me, school became a refuge, which surprisingly didn’t seem very important to many of the adults in my life.
Q: What challenges did you face with your foster parents or the foster care system and how did you overcome them?
A: I was placed in homes that seemed stable on the outside, but harbored its own evils. I was forced to work to provide food and clothing for myself. My environment was so dysfunctional I used school and friends as a way to escape “reality”.
Q: Explain how you became involved with The Villages.
A: At 16 years old I had enough. I explained to my caseworker at the time that I had been working several jobs since I was 14 years old and was practically taking care of myself due to a total lack of supervision and parenting. I was told about The Villages’ Independent Living Program and was assigned a counselor named Brian Carter (who is still employed by The Villages). My counselor admitted me into the program and one year later I had successfully completed the program. It was only one year after that when I graduated from high school.
Q: How can children and their parents help foster children in Indiana?
A: Provide foster children and youth with a sense of permanency and stability. It is important to understand that foster youth often have a hard time trusting adults and have challenging behaviors, but they need love, support and normalcy. Fostering is something you need to be ready to do for the long haul. If you can commit, you will find that through all the pain and hurt flowers can grow! Every foster child and youth is a seed that has not been nurtured properly. However, with positive and consistent care they can grow to be functioning members of society.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I always wanted to be a weapons specialist for the CIA. I would dream of being someone they would call to work behind the scenes to protect the public. Today, I conduct research that leads to policy change and implementation to increase educational outcomes for underserved and underrepresented populations of students. My “weapon” is research to help the educational path of children.
Q: Briefly describe your educational and professional accomplishments.
A: I started college over as a freshman undergrad in the fall of 2002 and graduated with an AS in Applied Computer Science in 2004. In 2005 I received a BS in Informatics New Media and Media Arts. I also graduated with GRAD CRT in Non-profit Management in 2004 and received an MA in Philanthropic Studies in 2007. I finished my GRAD CRT in Institutional Research in 2010 and am a doctoral candidate in Higher Education and Student Affairs with hopes of conferring soon.
Demetrees’ story is as heartbreaking as it is encouraging. We were honored to be able to help her find the right path and be a guide to help her get to where she is today. Please consider helping us create more stories like Demetrees’. Our unique fundraising event, CHAIRish the Children, is November 8, 2013 and tickets are on sale here. Take a look at all the items up for auction and enter to win two free tickets to the event from Moms for Less or Indy with Kids. We hope to see you there to help empower us to help more individuals just like Demetrees.