Jasmine Allen has known struggle. At 18 months old, she was taken from her mother’s home for reasons of neglect. Her mother, who is presently incarcerated, was unable to care for her. Jasmine lived with her paternal grandparents for ten years, and at the age of thirteen, went to live with her father. It was an adjustment, she explained. “I didn’t like it but I’ve always been good at changing with circumstances because that’s how I survive.
It was difficult to live there because I was at an age where I wanted to rebel against every rule he set down.” During this time, Jasmine told her father she was a lesbian and he did not like it. As a result she moved out and experienced instability in her living situation.
Jasmine’s living situation became inconsistent. She briefly went back to live with her grandparents, and two foster home placements followed. In one she suffered sexual abuse, and the other was involved in the drug trade. And at the age of 16, Jasmine became pregnant with twins. “My caseworker at the time was very supportive. She explained to me how this pregnancy would affect my life, and how I could cope.” Jasmine then joined a group home for teen moms, where her children could be cared for while she attended high school.
Eventually, Jasmine’s grandmother took over child care, and Jasmine completed high school and subsequently attended a technical college and received a degree in computerized medical billing and coding. Jasmine explained that throughout the turmoil in her life, her grandmother had been a constant reassuring force. “My grandmother has never changed, never fluctuated, and always stayed consistent when it came to me.”
Jasmine got her first job while she was living in a teen living program. At her year-end review, Jasmine’s caseworker asked her what her next step would be. Jasmine was familiar with UCAN through her previous participation in its RealTalk program, and knew that she could transfer to UCAN’s Independent Living Program. “It was something about the word UCAN: I felt like it was talking to me, saying yes you can.” At 19, Jasmine joined UCAN’s Independent Living Program and met Petra Gowinsok, a Housing Coordinator. “The very first day Petra took me out to buy my own things and made me feel so welcome. I loved the building and the living space. I learned to be independent, budget my finances and take care of myself there.” Petra talked about Jasmine’s resourcefulness and resilience, saying that “She is a survivor. In the beginning she had trust issues, but with the passage of time she learned to trust. I know she will do great things and I’m here if she ever needs to talk.”
Upon emancipation from the child welfare system, Jasmine accepted
a year’s internship at UCAN. She then joined UCAN’s Teen Parenting Service Network’s doula program, where she is being trained to be a doula and hopes to join UCAN full time as such. Doulas are trained individuals that provide pregnant women prenatal and postpartum services like physical, emotional and information guidance. “I felt I would be a great fit for this program. I was a teen mom and I know that I would have appreciated someone like a doula to be there for me when I was going to have my twins.”
Jasmine explained, “I like sharing my story. There may be other stories out there that are worse than mine, but I still feel grateful for being here after all I’ve gone through. I am still striving for success, still in motion.”