Oxford Hills foster child uses her experience in senior project

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PARIS – Being a foster child, your perspective is a little different than children raised by their biological parents.

And Angelena, who doesn’t want her last name used to protect her location, is using her unique perspective in her senior project at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

She wants to study the difference between the coping abilities of children in foster families following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and those of children in biological families who either lost their homes or were displaced by the storms.

Angelena also this past autumn raised about $300 to send to foster families in New Orleans and surrounding areas. She donated two of her paychecks from a job as a certified nursing assistant and also encouraged her colleagues and high school teachers to chip in.

The 18-year-old was removed from her biological parents in Lewiston when she was 10, she said. She now lives in a western Maine town with a family that has five children, three of whom are foster children.

Angelena is using her senior project to explore how foster children respond to stresses, like the hurricanes. Her thesis, based on her own experiences, is they’re a touch more resilient.

“It’s kind of like we feel we’re immune to different things,” she said.

She surmised that foster children who lost their homes in the hurricanes might have adapted better. “They’re always moving” anyway, she said.

“I think I’m a lot different than a lot of people,” she said. “I’m one of the most independent people. Everything I’ve been through has made me like that.”

Joyce Pringle, who is on the board of the National Foster Parent Association and lives in Chelsea, said foster children might be a bit more resilient, but they are also often strengthened by being placed in environments that are especially nurturing, with new parents who understand their extra needs.

Pringle said she remembered when Angelena presented her with the check to donate to foster families hurt by the hurricanes.

“I spoke at our organizational meeting (last fall), and Angelena was there, and I said these people need help,” Pringle said. “She gave two of her paychecks and she raised some money and even gave some clothing. And so it was amazing she would hear and try to go out and help other people who were desperate in need.”

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