How A Very Determined Foster Child Found Self-Esteem — And Her Future

By Christine Clarridge
The Seattle Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great story about one young woman’s experience with “Treehouse”, a Seattle nonprofit dedicated to helping foster kids grow into healthy adults.


It could have been easy for Noel Woods to become a casualty of her past.

The 18-year-old ran away from an abusive situation at home when she was only 8, suffered in her first foster placement and made some bad decisions during her early adolescence that threatened her academic career.

But with support from the woman who became her guardian, her community of faith and the help of Treehouse, a Seattle nonprofit organization founded in 1988 by social workers dedicated to helping foster kids, she says she is now focused clearly on the future.

Woods, who recently graduated from high school, is working as many hours as she can at a high-end department store and applying to colleges and internships with the goal of working one day as a computer programmer.

“I’m not going to play the victim,” she said in a recent interview. “What my past was isn’t who I am today.”

Woods’ earliest years as the only child of a single mother were good, she says. Although her tiny family struggled financially, she and her mother were close and took joyful day trips to Alki Beach, downtown Seattle and Woodinville. But her mother’s mental health deteriorated, and Noel knew something was wrong.

When she was in elementary school, she ran away from home, told officials at her school what was going on and was taken into state custody that same day, she said.

In her first foster home, she cried every day. She missed her mother, felt guilty about leaving her and felt isolated from the family she was placed with. Eventually, Pat Smith, a family friend whom Woods calls her “Gammie,” applied for third-party custody, and Woods was placed with her.

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