Hispanic Heritage Month is through October 15th. Every week, we’ve been highlighting Latinos in our community who’ve impacted the lives of South Floridians. Today, we introduce you to a woman who’s been helping the youth out of foster care for many years.
“She helped me in such a dark time to get the help the I needed,” said Selenia Bahamundi, was in foster care.
Selenia had a rough upbringing. When her mother died, her grandmother took her in then she subsequently entered foster care.
“It was definitely a culture shock because my grandmother is very old fashioned and we would stay home and focus on school. Then when I moved to foster care, a lot of girls weren’t like that,” said Selenia.
From Puerto Rico, Christine Frederick is the CEO of the FLITE Center in Fort Lauderdale. The nonprofit guides the aging youth out of foster care. In her many years of helping people in the community find their way, Christine met Selenia when she was five years old.
“A lot of us that work in the system of care have been here for a long time and that stability really helps our young people to know that they have familiar faces over the span of their lifetime,” said Christine.
According to adoptuskidgs.org, there are about 19,000 children in foster care in Florida. Christine says last year they served over 1,500 young adults in South Florida.
“We helped over 400 with housing and placed about 390 of those in actual apartment units. Our number for housing is 443. 100% of those youth received move-in baskets so items for their apartments, beds, furniture that has been donated, and emergency need services. About 140 youth were helped with employment, skills, training and placement. 17 that graduated from GED,” said Christine.
Along with housing services, FLITE Center has helped people, including Selenia, find jobs. Currently, Selenia is an intern for the nonprofit.
“She’s super focused, has really done a lot of work on herself and not allowing her journey through foster care to hinder her progress and to affect the fact that she wanted to break cycles from childhood to be a really good parent,” added Christine.
The mother of one says even though she’s had a traumatic childhood, she’s using her experience to help others.
“I want to help someone else. I don’t know what my purpose is or what [I’m going to do] longterm. But this is a small thing I can do because I remember when I was young I was very entitled. I had no idea what the world was about and I get to see some of the looks on other youths faces, and even if it’s a small something, you can something like ‘hey, I know,’ said Selenia.
If you or someone you know is in need, we have more information on how to connect with Christine and the FLITE Center, click here.