Power House Alumni Conference

At the Board of Child Care, we support our alumni and are always looking opportunities to connect with foster care alumni.

Earlier this month, a couple of our the youth were able to attend an annual foster care alumni conference. The conference included an opportunity to meet the foster care ombudsman, a successful entrepreneur alumni, and provided an opportunity for youth to share their stories. There were also various breakout information sessions on topics such as financial stability, public speaking, and defining your personal creative process. Phillip “Nick” described the end of the conference as bittersweet because “it gave me encouragement and let me know that there are people out there just like me. I really enjoyed this event, and would like to attend more events like this one”.


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Behind The Tassel-CJ

A New Path Chosen

Diagnosed with ADD at an early age, C.J. struggled throughout his childhood and was headed down a path of self-destruction. He found himself in jail and was admitted to BCC’s Falling Waters Campus. While he was there, C.J. discovered a sense of community that did wonders for his self esteem and communication skills. C.J. became very active in the local high school while BCC staff kept him on track with his academics. When offered the chance to graduate on stage with his senior class, C.J. chose instead to graduate at Falling Waters. It was one of his proudest moments. After leaving the BCC, C.J. wanted to join the armed forces yet he was unable to score high enough for enlistment. Using the skills learned at the BCC, C.J. studied until he was able to earn the rank of a U.S. Marine.

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Behind the Tassel-Yeremiyah

“The opportunity changed my Life.” -Yeremiyah

Yeremiyah feels that when he came to the Board of Child Care with three of his siblings, he was ” fortunate to have been granted an opportunity to  change my life forever and hopefully change the lives of those around me.”  Thanks to BCC’s assistance, Yeremiyah realized his dreams and achieved the goals that he would not have considered.  Playing sports, graduating from high school and being accepted into college are only a fraction of the things he has been able to accomplish with BCC’s help.  Yeremiyah made the Dean’s List attending  North Carolina State University where he is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in chemical engineering. He says, ” The BCC is a support system that I consider to be part of my family.

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You Changed Ricky’s Life

December 2016



Dear Friends,

I am writing to share the story of young boy named Ricky that lived at the Board of Child Care (BCC).

I am delighted to share that today, Ricky is off of all social welfare programs, graduated from high school, and is successfully living with his family.

Because of your previous support, you changed Ricky’s life.

Ricky is just one example of our mission in action: enriching communities, one family at a time.

 Ricky learned skills for living through a therapeutic environment. He attended group and individual therapy, met with a psychiatrist routinely, worked with his social worker, and grew up at BCC to become a smart and confident young man. Ricky is just one of the many reunification stories we have to share with you. 

Will you please consider making a year-end gift so that we can continue to share more of these stories with you? A gift of $250, $100, $50, or $25 will help our current program participants continue treatment.

Wishing you and your loved ones have a very happy and healthy New Year!



Laurie Anne Spagnola
President & CEO

PS. If you are inspired by our story please feel free to share on your social media site.


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If you wish to make a credit card gift by year-end, please visit our website: boardofchildcare.org/donate before 11:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on 12/31. Please do not leave any credit card information in a voice message or in an email. The last day to make a gift of over the phone, a gift of stock or an IRA transfer is December 30th. For assistance with any of these please call our Development Office 410-922-2100 x 5430. Bequests can be done during normal business hours via phone any time of the year. Our offices will be closed on December 31st, so please make your gift online

A copy of our current financial statement is available upon written request to Board of Child Care 3300 Gaither Rd., Baltimore, MD 21244 or by phone at 410-922-2100. The documents are also available online at guidestar.org.

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Ruben H. – A Life Reborn Through Belief

ruban-hHanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing sports – markers of typical teenage life – were things Ruben H. could only dream of in Honduras.

“It’s hard to make people understand what it’s like in Honduras, but I’m OK with telling it,” Ruben says. “I want to help people understand why I left.”


Ruben escaped violent cartel drug trade, human exploitation and ransom kidnappings by walking from his village of Dolores in the Honduran state of Copán. He was just 14.

“Tell the truth and you’re in trouble,” Ruben says. “Because I saw people stealing things, other people wanted to kill me.”

Walking from Honduras, through Guatemala and into Mexico – a grueling trek of 800 miles by road or longer if by trail or field – Ruben and other migrants boarded the Ruta Golfo, a freight train running along Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

Filled with migrants sitting in cargo beds or atop boxcars with no protection from the elements, the trains are rife with criminals seeking victims for kidnapping ransoms.

“One night I huddled for warmth with a stranger so I didn’t die from the cold,” Ruben says. “If I was crying or feeling sad, I asked God to take care of me.”

On August 1, 2012, wearing nothing but the clothes he traveled over 1,000 miles in, Ruben waded across the Rio Grande River into the United States.

Click to open a full size image


Almost immediately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Ruben into custody, kicking off a 26-month, five-state tour of residential foster care facilities. In October 2014, Ruben entered Caminos, BCC’s program for recently migrated youth. Titled to honor the Spanish translation for “journey,” Caminos offered short-term shelter, medical care and case management support while youth awaited reunification with family or a sponsor.

BCC’s challenge initially was paperwork – without citizenship papers or a birth certificate, Ruben could not apply for a visa – and because he wasn’t 18, he could not stay in the United States. Viviana Camacho, Ruben’s BCC case manager, called the Honduran State Department several times a day for two weeks to unravel Ruben’s riddle.

Camacho had to get creative, too. “We drew a map, discovered Ruben’s hometown and ran an announcement on a local Honduran radio station,” Camacho says. “Someone heard it and told his mother. That was the break we needed.”

“That was maybe the best day of my life,” Ruben says of hearing his mother’s voice for the first time in three years. “My mother was so happy to hear me.”


Armed with his birth certificate and with help from a DC law firm, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR), BCC helped Ruben qualify as a Child In Need of Assistance (CINA). That meant Ruben could stay in the United States instead of banishment back to Honduras when he turned 18.

Ruben embraced American culture. He played striker on his Baltimore County high school soccer team. He has made friends while taking hold of American culture. He learned to text in English, and has written close to 70 songs in Spanish.

Ruben believes his life has purpose thanks to the Board of Child Care. “In America, I’m not facing the danger I feared in Honduras,” Ruben says. “I’ve already done the hardest part. I’m at BCC because I believe God
wanted me to make a good decision.”

This story originally appeared in our 2015 Annual Report.  Click here to read all past annual reports.


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Ricky M. – Skating Past Obstacles

ricky-m-alumni-profileThe way Ricky F. arrived at the Board of Child Care in 2007 will look nothing like how he will leave.

“We had stopped at McDonald’s for dinner and I was in the car with a cup of sweet tea held between my knees. We hit the speed bump by the front gate and the cup smashed and spilled all over my pants,” Ricky said with a smile. “I had to change in the bathroom right by the front desk.”

Nine years later, he prepares to leave BCC – with clean pants this time, he assures us – ready for living independently. “I was angry at leaving home and having to come live in a home,” Ricky recalls, “but I think a lot of maturity comes with age if you try to grasp it.”


“When I met him a year ago, school wasn’t working out the way he hoped and no one was calling him back for the various jobs he applied to,” says Grace Rudatsikira, Ricky’s clinical social worker at BCC. “(Then) everything seemed to align – there was a definite “click” moment.”

What clicked was Ricky’s ability to process what was going on around him. Instead of roller coasting through peaks and valleys, he steadied himself by controlling his emotions.

Now living in BCC’s Colesville, MD group home, Ricky is an accomplished skateboarder and snowboarder. He taught himself how to play guitar – first learning small riffs – before moving on to a few chords and eventually entire songs. His music has been a steady fixture at BCC campus gatherings, holiday parties, and Thanksgiving meals.


Ricky earned a scholarship to High Cascade Camp in Oregon, a week of learning from and interacting with professional snowboarders. “You’d be up 10,000 feet above sea level, the clouds would roll in and you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of your face,” Ricky says. “We’d go down the tail at 30 mph. Amazing.”

“I also still remember my first paycheck…it was $115.36. I bought a wireless router and an X-Box Live subscription,” Ricky says.

When asked what he is most proud of during his time at BCC, Ricky’s answer comes without hesitation. “Being there to cut the ribbon for the skateboard park on campus,” he says quickly. An avid skateboarder (and we must assume an excellent salesperson as well), Ricky’s advocacy for the construction of skateboard parks at the Baltimore and Martinsburg campuses pushed those projects to the finish line in 2014.

“Skateboarding was a huge part of my life when I was in Cottage Four and I figured a skate park would be a great way to get kids some activity, get them out of the way of cars,” Ricky says.


The young boy covered in sweet tea is now a young man who sees himself as a role model for younger residents. Helping them make the same small steps he once struggled with is what makes Ricky smile.

“Having someone to answer questions big and small means a lot,” Ricky says. “You’ll always have more chances to progress forward no matter what situation you’re in but what makes the biggest difference is what you do while you’re here.”

This story first appeared in our 2015 Annual Report (see all past annual reports here). 

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Maria H. – Hope Drove Her to Succeed

maria-h-alumni-profileMaria H. can describe her experience at Baltimore’s Board of Child Care with just one word.



To understand Maria’s journey, you first have to acknowledge her reality. After spending her first nine years with biological parents, she spent the next five years of her life in a large orphanage in Siberia. After her two sisters were adopted in 1998, a Maryland family from Baltimore County adopted Maria in 2001.

A survivor of a throwaway culture, however, her struggles would continue for some time. Maria spoke little English and, almost immediately, found difficulty adjusting to her new life with her adopted family. “I moved in with a foster care family temporarily. My adoptive parents wouldn’t take me back in, so I was transferred to foster care permanently and that’s how I arrived at BCC,” Maria said. “I was young, emotional, and not very happy,” Maria admits. “I was upset.”


Maria turned to art as an outlet to cope with her new reality. “I’m crafty; I like to make things,” said Maria, who continued to take classes at the nearby Staub art school in Catonsville, MD while living on the Baltimore campus.

“Art became a way to deal with my problems and emotions in a positive way,” she says. “It kept my mind busy. Instead of thinking about the sad things in my life, I turned my feelings to art and that made me feel good about myself.”


Realizing she had to finish high school if she wanted to succeed, earning her diploma became Maria’s main goal in her late teens. “An education meant that I would have a future, that it would lead me to be successful,” she says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, but I knew I needed to finish.”

While completing high school, Maria took a job at Crown Trophy in Owings Mills. After graduation, she went to school to become a dental assistant through a program offered at Howard Community College. The license took six months to acquire; she started working in the field shortly after.

“Maria always knew what she needed to do, and she set her sights on being independent and following through on her goals,” says Nicole Smith, BCC’s Vice-President of Residential Services, who worked with Maria during her
time at BCC. “Once she had her skill set in place, we could all see she was going to flourish.”


10 years have passed since Maria graduated from high school, moved away from BCC and launched her career
as a dental assistant. Now married, she is advancing her career through BCC’s alumni grant program, going back
to school to become a licensed dental hygienist. Perhaps most importantly, Maria looks forward to starting a family of her own one day.

“We don’t have kids yet, but we definitely want them,” Maria said. “We’re waiting for the right time to begin our family.”

The ability to circle a goal, chart a path to achieve it and execute the plan is something she credits Board of Child Care for teaching her, and she plans to fully utilize the skill.

“The program’s helped me to set goals when I needed them the most,” Maria said. “I wouldn’t have achieved this life without BCC.”

This article originally appeared in BCC’s 2015 Annual Report (click to view all annual reports).

Did You Know?
Thanks to its donors, Board of Child Care funded $21,702 in continuing education for its alumni in FY 2015!

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Kendra M. – A Childhood Restored

kendra-m-alumni-profileKendra M. never received the childhood every little girl deserves until she came to the Board of Child Care.

Abandoned by her mother at two years old, Kendra’s father struggled with substance abuse. Often transient and sometimes homeless, it was not until Kendra was 11 when someone notified Child Protective Services. Neglect was confirmed; Kendra was placed into foster care.

Kendra was welcomed to BCC by a small army of support staff and responded very well to the program. With an individualized treatment plan in place, Kendra was able to work through her past trauma, make academic progress, and blossom through the healing relationships she experienced at BCC.

Kendra’s transformation led her to BCC’s community-based group homes in Martinsburg, WV. She became an honor roll student, a regular at spiritual worship, and advocated for herself and others at “The Landing,” a local teen recovery ministry.

After almost four years of many laughs — and a few tears, too — Kendra bid BCC farewell. Bittersweet because it meant saying goodbye to a recovery filled with good memories, but celebrated as she continues her march towards happiness and independence.

“A story like Kendra’s is the reason we do this work,” says Jacqueline Columbia, BCC’s Director of West Virginia Operations. “Helping change a child’s life positively not only impacts the child, but has a positive impact on an entire community.”

This story originally appeared in BCC’s 2015 Annual Report (see all past annual reports).

Editor’s note:
The name of the program participant has been changed and stock photography utilized to protect confidentiality.

Did you know?
Due to past success, the Martinsburg group home added a third cottage to the property in FY 2015 (read the newsletter article).

Read more from Kendra M. – A Childhood Restored

Donald’s story: foster care is only part of who I am

Donald B CropIt should come as no surprise to those who know him that Donald B., who is a genuinely friendly and welcoming person, is finding success as a personal banker.

Advocating for other people and helping them make improvements in their lives — whether by opening their first checking or savings account or getting a mortgage to buy a home — just comes naturally to him. He’s so good at it, in fact, that he rose from an entry-level customer service associate to his current role as a branch consultant in less than a year.

What may be less apparent is that Donald also serves as an advocate on behalf of youth in foster care, helping them to improve their lives.

Compelled to give back

Donald entered foster care at age 12 and says that he learned early on that success is something you have to seek out.

“I met someone who was a former foster youth, and one thing she said that stuck with me is that we are not victims of our situation, we are survivors,” Donald says. “That taught me not to use my situation as a reason why I cannot succeed.”

He says that experience inspired him to want to give back and it’s what he calls on when mentoring others.

“I feel compelled to be an advocate for foster youth because I know a lot of other kids have opportunities that we don’t have,” he says. “I feel like there is lots of potential for us [foster youth] that we may not know about. If nobody taps into that, we’re not going to be able to reach it.”

Donald says he had “a unique experience” in foster care, compared to others he has met. After stays at several facilities in DC, including a foster home, Donald came to live at BCC’s Baltimore campus at age 14.

Able to leave BCC when he turned 18, Donald found a place of his own, a townhouse that he rents in the Druid Hill area of Baltimore, and has been living independently for several years. Currently, Donald is working at the bank and going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree.

‘Welcome and nurtured’

Donald credits BCC, and the staff in particular, for helping to shape the person he has become.

“BCC made me feel welcome and nurtured,” he says, adding that the staff were especially helpful when he was transitioning out of BCC and getting set up for life on his own. “They were supportive and acted like role models, showing me what success looked like. “BCC was a good environment for me and I liked it there.”

The biggest lesson he says he learned is that having a foster care background should be liberating, not limiting.

“Foster care is only a part of who I am, part of the journey,” Donald says. “It was only eight years of my life. It certainly helped shaped who I am, because it was my teenage years, but it is just a piece of who I am, just a part of the story.”

This story originally appeared in BCC’s 2014 Annual Report.  Click here to see all annual reports.

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Latasha’s story: BCC is a ‘lifesaver’ for college graduate

Latasha - CropLatasha M., though only in her 20s, is already a success story, in so many ways.

Tasha, as she’s called by her friends, graduated with a BS in exercise science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2014. While there she was a member of the Division I indoor and outdoor track teams. She’s currently applying to schools to pursue a masters in athletic training.

“As a kid, I never thought I would finish high school, let alone go to college or grad school,” Tasha says. “Now look at me.”

Without hesitation, Tasha says her dream job would be to combine her passion for athletics and a desire to care for others, working either as an athletic trainer for a professional sports team, like her beloved Baltimore Ravens, or as a personal trainer at a gym.

Achieving her goals

“I love being healthy and active and staying in shape,” she says. “I love getting people in shape. Pushing them a little bit at a time. I have always wanted to help people — I can’t help myself, I’ve been a problem solver all my life.”

In spite of her natural abilities and drive, Tasha credits her relationship with the Board of Child Care as the main reason she has been able to achieve her goals.

“If I could describe my experience with Board of Child Care in one word or phrase, I would say ‘lifesaver,’” she says with a smile. “BCC literally saved my life, in many ways.”

At age 13, Tasha, along with her sister, was moved into foster care, staying first at BCC’s Colesville sibling group home in Silver Spring and later at the Baltimore campus.

“Being in foster care was hard. I didn’t feel like a ‘regular kid’ at first,” she says. “But it helped me get closer to my sister. We quickly realized our family wasn’t the best support system for us. We learned we needed each other and had each other’s back.”

Learning valuable lessons

Tasha says the staff at BCC was especially helpful because they used their own experiences to teach her some valuable life lessons and skills.

“At BCC, I learned not to let my past affect my future,” she says. “The program helped me learn self-discipline, to be humble, to enjoy life, to set goals and learn how to achieve them, and to enjoy the moment.”

Tasha admits it took her awhile but she eventually listened to the staff’s advice, studied hard in school and used sports as a way to feel better about herself.

“BCC was the best environment for me when I needed it most,” says Tasha, who graduated from BCC in 2009 and now lives on her own in an apartment near BCC’s Baltimore campus. “They gave me the support I needed to be successful. If you work with them, BCC can change your life.”

This story originally appeared in BCC’s 2014 Annual Report.  Click here to see all annual reports.

Read more from Latasha’s story: BCC is a ‘lifesaver’ for college graduate