When he was 8, Jermal Muhammad was living in what he describes as an orphanage in Windsor Locks. Many of the boys in the home would run away routinely and Jermal often joined them, not so much because he wanted to, but to be part of the group.
“I had all this traumatic stuff going on,” he says. “But I always wanted a family. I wanted someone to care about me the way I cared about them, as a parent to a son.”
When he became connected with The Connection’s Connecting Children and Families (CCF) therapeutic foster care program he was placed with a family that he came to love.
“It was awesome,” Jermal says. “I felt joyful, as any kid would.”
But after six years, Jermal’s family moved to California. Because Jermal couldn’t go with them, he was placed in the home of the woman who would become his second foster mom — Abby Slen — and quickly settled into life as part of the Slen family.
While Jermal admits he did have a few struggles during the transition, he adds quickly that it was “almost perfect” right away.
Abby loves being a foster mother. She and her husband chose the CCF program because it “was much more personal, as was the support.” “Every foster kid should be in therapeutic foster care,” Abby says. “Everybody needs somebody to love them, everybody deserves it, every kid deserves it.”
The CCF program provides case managers who work with foster families to establish trusting relationships between foster parents and children, providing advice and support to the parents, and working with the children on addressing their behaviors at home, at school, and in peer relationships. The goal is to increase the child’s positive behaviors, enabling him or her to remain within the family.
For Abby, this ongoing training and support has been vitally important. Over the course of 16 years, the Slens have welcomed 10 foster children into their home. The Slens currently have two CCF foster children at home. And Jermal, who is now 26, is a member of the National Guard and lives and works in Atlanta still returns to Connecticut—and home — when he is on leave.
Jermal says that despite the struggles that both the child and the parents will deal with, giving someone a family makes it worth it.
Jermal says of his experience, “Having to go into the foster care system acknowledging at a young age that I needed something else, it was awesome, it all happened like a dream”.