Looking Back on Three Years at LYDIA
When Jessica was just three years old and living in Chicago, her father kidnapped her — along with his three other children — and moved to Ecuador. A few years later, he returned to the United States with them, settling in New York City.
Jessica was in first grade when school officials somehow discovered what her father had done, and she and her siblings were returned to Chicago. There, because Jessica’s mother wasn’t in a position to care for them, they became wards of the state.
Jessica and one of her brothers were placed at LYDIA Residential Treatment Center. She remembers the first few days as being surreal. “I didn’t understand what I was doing there, and I didn’t speak English very well so it was hard to communicate,” says Jessica, now 30. “At the same time, I was surrounded by kids, and that was exciting.”
Jessica had both happy and sad times at LYDIA, but remembers feeling safe and cared for.
“I liked all of my house parents at LYDIA, but one stands out,” she explains.
“I used to sleepwalk a lot, and she would stay up with me and we’d talk. Also, the staff took us to church regularly. I became a Christian at LYDIA, and I think that has helped me through life.”
After almost three years at LYDIA, Jessica lived with two different foster families. At the age of 17, she began emancipating herself from state guardianship, a task that was made easier because she had earned a college scholarship.
Today, Jessica is living in Chicago and working as a receptionist. She keeps in touch with her siblings and sees her parents occasionally.
Jessica is also a mom, now—last year, her six-year old son attended LYDIA’s Learn and Care Preschool, which she says gave him a great start educationally.
“It’s been a long time since I lived at LYDIA, but I still know people who work there and I feel a connection,” she explained.
“I really appreciate what LYDIA did for me when I was little.”