An Inspired Life A feature story about one of our staff, by Kathy Cronin Grant

Cheryl Moeller is a Supervisor in CFC’s Children, Youth and Family team, responsible for the department's Kinship program, and is one of two team leaders in our Preventive program.

Inspired by children, and their stories, Cheryl has extended her passion at work to her family life, serving as a foster parent since 2002. So far, 13 children and teenagers have benefitted from her caregiving, mentoring, and all that her maternal love can give. In turn, these children-now-adults share their passion for helping the vulnerable and giving back with their own communities and families.

I Realized I Could Have Been a Social Worker or a Minister

Cheryl began her career in management at Wegmans, and enjoyed learning new things and at times traveling the world as Wegmans explored new product lines and services. An assessment test revealed to her that her interests and passions made her an ideal candidate to become either a social worker or a minister. She returned to college for her Master’s Degree in Social Work, and joined CCFCS in 2001 as a preventive worker, with a caseload of 12 families who were at risk of foster care placement for their children.

A year later, sitting in on service plan reviews for unaccompanied refugee minors from Sudan and Haiti her attention and her heart were captured. As opportunities arose at CFC, her job responsibilities expanded to supervisory roles in services that mentored and advocated for children of prisoners, a job readiness program for teenagers, kinship caregivers (grandparents and other adults who are kin raising children), and children in families at risk of foster care placement. Today, even as a supervisor, she always has 3-4 family cases, as working hands-on with children and their families is very important to her. "Especially if the family case involves lots of children, I love to get involved from a Preventive stand-point, to see what can be done to keep a loving family intact."

Then, in 2002, My Life Changed Again

Exposure to the foster care children in CFC’s unaccompanied refugee minor program inspired Cheryl to become a foster parent herself. Stories of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” caused her to both laugh and cry. Her mind responded to the journey these orphans had been through to get to our country, and heart called her to help them. One of the stories stands out to her to this day:

Abraham was 3 year’s old when he was forced to run away from his Sudanese village. On his journey to safety, he had to take extreme measures to stay alive, such as drink his own urine for hydration and bathe in rivers filled with alligators. He witnessed friends doing the same being eaten by alligators! Starving, his dream of comfort was to grow wings so he could fly away. Today, Abraham is married to his Sudanese wife, for whom he went to great lengths to bring here, and looks forward to raising his own children in a life so happy and safe, so unlike his own.

Abraham, and boys like him, shared other stories of their adaptation to western life, oftentimes with great laughter. Like their fear of jumping on an escalator for the first time, and what it was like to use plastic forks and knives to eat their airplane food on their final journey to the US. “I could spend entire weekends driving young refugee adults to where they need to go to set up and sustain their lives here – grocery shopping, filling prescriptions, getting to jobs, and even having a bit of fun,” Cheryl says. "New immigrants may no longer have the supportive family environment I had growing up, or a natural network of community that provides basic needs so they can thrive."

Why I am Grateful

"My strong Christian faith resonates so much with Catholic social principles and working for the vulnerable in our community. I am lucky: I was raised by 2 parents who loved me and helped me go to college and gave me so much support as I started my life as an independent adult."

Cheryl notes that she feels the American dream is not as achievable now as it was for her growing up. Her sense of gratitude for all that has been given to her has created a strong and direct feeling to give back, to help others who simply need options and an advocate to thrive.

What Role Family and Community Services Plays - And Could Play - In Our Community

I asked Cheryl to share her uppermost thoughts on what could truly make a measurable and sustainable difference in the lives of families we serve. This is her feeling...

"Preventive services is sometimes the last stand before some families are dismantled," shares Cheryl. "Sometimes, there is bad parenting, but often, families are affected by poverty, mental health issues and domestic violence issues. Our social workers must oftentimes deal with the basic housing and food needs before parenting issues, and opportunities to bring stability and joy to their family, can be addressed."

"My wish is that somehow agencies like Catholic Family Center could have consistent access to funds for security deposits so that families could relocate to a better neighborhood, with better schools and community supports," she continues. "Access to funds for this purpose, and better and easier access to transportation, whether to a dentist, doctor or shopping, would make a great deal of difference in breaking the cycle and pressures of poverty by providing safer options for parents and their families."

Learn more about our Foster Care program for unaccompanied refugee minors.

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