NORTH EAST — The day after he turned 16 Geronta Harding found out he was alone in the world.
“My mom said she was leaving,” Harding said. Making the comment that she “couldn’t take this anymore,” Harding said his mother left him, his brother and sister behind and disappeared.
His sister is now living with an aunt, and the brother was sent a different way but Harding went into state care and is now in treatment foster care through The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region. Now living in North East with his foster family, Harding is getting settled in and taking advantage of what The Arc can offer.
“I am learning life skills,” he said. That includes job interview, budgeting and how to read receipts. “Lucky for me I am able to adapt quickly.”
May is National Foster Care Month and a good time to talk about how it works for kids with extra challenges, such as the case with Geronta Harding.
Patrick Seidl, spokesman for The Arc NCR through The Fallston Group, said Harding has been assigned a caseworker too who works with his foster mother, Brittany Weygand, to help him get ahead in life.
“That’s one-on-one case management planning with goals to get him where he wants to be in life,” Seidl said.
For Harding that goal includes video game design and animation. He’s been working on “King Wolf” for quite some time.
“It’s mysticism and fantasy,” he said of the world he creates on paper and soon on computer. “Drawing with a computer, trying to learn this is hard.”
Weygand said she Harding fit right in to her home and family, but said treatment foster care can be challenging. She appreciated the training she gets through “Foster Parent College,” which is offered by The Arc NCR.
“You learn how to deal with triggers and issues. These kids are coming with trauma,” she said. She also gets training on dealing with difficult parents. For Weygand it’s personal.
“I was in foster care when I was 4,” she said. “I understand the feelings and emotions, that need for the one-on-one connection.”
Seidl said The Arc NCR wants its foster parents to have every tool available to them to help the child in their care.
“The ultimate goal is re-unification,” Weygand said. However in the meantime she’s helping her foster child enter the adult world.
“He’s approved for the Maryland Department of Rehabilitative Services,” she said. DORS will assist him with training and resources to become more independent.
More interested in talking about his drawing than his current situation, Harding did say he was comfortable with the Weygands and was feeling more confident about his future.
“I’m not sure I’ve made all the right choices but it got me here,” he said.
To find out more about becoming a foster parent the The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region go to https://arcncr.org/programs-services/treatment-foster-care/ or call 410-836-7177 and ask for Steve Acerno at extension 366.