Wish Book

Wish Book: Teen ages out of foster care, determined to make it on her own

Gabrielle Joseph, 18, in her Fort Lauderdale apartment on Nov. 25.
Gabrielle Joseph, 18, in her Fort Lauderdale apartment on Nov. 25. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

When Gabrielle Joseph was 16, she often missed school to care for her four younger siblings while her mother struggled with a drug addiction.

Her high school alerted the Department of Children and Families, which placed Joseph into foster care.

Despite having to move from her family’s home and deal with being separated from most of her siblings, Joseph, now 18, graduated on time and is studying cosmetology at Sheridan Technical College in Hollywood. She then wants to get a business degree.

“I learned how to take care of myself,” said the bubbly teen, who “loves to do hair” and doesn’t take no for an answer.

Her can-do, independent spirit is what led Cammie Cacace, a team leader for Memorial Hospital’s Future Prep program for children in foster care, to nominate Joseph for Miami Herald’s Wish Book series.

“She has excelled so well on her own,” Cacace said. “She is very mature for her age and has been able to do things that are not typical of the majority of the kids we see.”

Cacace said she’d liked to see Joseph get some furniture for her apartment and perhaps a treat, including gift cards for new clothes or shoes.

“She never spends any money on herself,” Cadace said. “And she wouldn’t ask for anything.”

When Joseph aged out of foster care in March, she could have gone back home — her mother is now sober, she said — but Joseph wanted to prove to herself and others she could make it on her own.

“I have goals for myself and I figured it would be better for me if I was on my own,” she said as she sat on her couch — given to her when she moved in to her own place.

So she secured government housing, got a part-time job and learned how to pay her bills. By being resourceful — Google helped a lot, she admits — she found organizations that have helped her with transportation, getting basic necessities and subsidized housing. She learned how to braid hair — via an online tutorial — to make some extra cash.

While she has the necessities, Joseph said a dresser to store her clothes — which are now in stacks on the floor — and a computer desk so she doesn’t have to do her work on her donated bed would be helpful. She’d also like a television so she can sit on her couch and watch movies when she has down time.

Most of what she has in her apartment was given to her through Future Prep and other organizations. She has government assistance for her food, living expenses and school — as long as she remains enrolled. She also works 10 hours a week at a store in Sawgrass Mills.

“I try to save whatever I can for a rainy day,” she said.

Failure, she said is not an option.

“I have this urge in me to make something of myself,” she said.

How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook @MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook

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