Jacklyn grew up in California and is the youngest of three children. Jackie’s father wasn’t a part of her life until her adolescence, which meant that her German/Puerto Rican mother was her primary caregiver. Throughout her life, Jackie has overcome periods of homelessness, abuse, bullying, academic struggles, and mental health challenges.
As a teenager, Jackie spent time in California’s foster care system. In high school and while she was living in residential group homes she struggled to find peers that she could relate to, so she spent most of her time with teachers and staff. As a mixed race, African American/Puerto Rican, young woman she never knew where she belonged. She was bullied throughout her childhood and remembers being called too “white washed” for the black kids and too “dark-skinned” for the Spanish and the white kids.
Jackie felt ignored by her older siblings and since her mother worked three jobs a lot of the time, she often felt neglected by her family and alone. In high school, in order to move away from the intense bullying she faced Jackie became involved in team sports and clubs and became friends with the more “popular” crowd. However, as her social status climbed and the bullying subsided, her academics suffered.
Her rebellious behavior in high school coincided with a load of emotional and physical abuse from her mom and aunt at home. When things got really bad, Jackie found a place she could go to get away from her problems. She became involved with an organization called Bill Wilson Center and joined a two-month program where she and her family could receive group therapy and individual counseling. When her family returned home, things seemed better than ever and her family felt like one big happy unit.
However, in 2008 everything fell apart. Her mother lost her job and suffered significant financial hardships. Her family lost their home and they were forced to move out of state to a “high risk” area and into what society would consider “garbage” living conditions. They managed to get by okay for a year until they stopped receiving benefits and were forced out and onto the streets. During that time, Jackie had nothing but food stamps to look forward to and subsequently gained a significant amount of weight. That period of weight gain contributes greatly to a lot of the negative self-esteem challenges she faces today.
After her family was evicted from their home, they moved around to many different homeless areas until they made the decision to take the three-day bus ride to Lead Hill, Arkansas to live with a family member. Upon their arrival they realized that this family member was also homeless. At that point they were far away from all of their friends and family with nowhere to go. Jackie couldn’t stand it anymore so she ran away from her family and took a greyhound bus back to the place she once called home. She knew of a place where homeless and runaway youth could stay so she went there. After loads of drama with the county, her mother tearfully signed away her parental rights, saying “it’s a shame to lose my baby first, but I can’t provide for you anymore”. Jackie, then 16 years old, was declared a dependent of the court and her status quickly changed from “runaway” to “throwaway”; a label she struggles with to this day.
While in the system and away from her family, Jackie struggled with depression and anxiety and started experiencing severe panic attacks. Without family support around Jackie sought attention from staff and became almost overly dependent on the trusting relationships she’d built. Despite the many struggles and challenges she faced, becoming a dependent of the court allowed her to turn her life around. She joined a transitional housing program, started working, and eventually got an apartment all on her own!
Since becoming an adult, Jackie made the decision that she wanted to work with children. For six years she worked professionally as a Nanny for kids ages 0-14. After becoming unhappy with her position she discovered an opportunity to work in a group home. She thought about the staff that helped her every day that she struggled in the foster care system and decided to apply for the job—citing her experience in childcare and her personal background on the application. Thankfully, she got the job!
Her experience in that group home is what led her to Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon and she is so happy to be a part of the team and to be working with the youth of Multnomah County!