Stories of Hope

The Power of Trust for Novalee

Novalee comes from a large, close-knit family in Rutland. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her family, already struggling to make ends meet, lost everything in a house fire. A foot infection resulted in the amputation of her leg. Novalee, who has spina bifida, is proud of her ability to work through things independently. But the events that happened were difficult and isolating.

Soon after Novalee’s leg was amputated, her family welcomed the help of the Easterseals VT Compass program.

Novalee’s Compass Youth & Family Stabilization Coordinator, Lana, got to know Novalee at bi-weekly sessions. She supported Novalee in transitioning back to school. She connected the family to resources like the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England and The Lead Out Foundation, which provide financial assistance for clothing, gas money, and medical family weekends, and mentoring support groups.

Lana earned Novalee’s trust. “When you can gain that trust, there’s so much you can do to help individuals and families achieve stability,” Lana says. These days, she is helping Novalee explore her dream of becoming a firefighter, a career that runs in Novalee’s family. They’ve visited many fire stations in the area, and Novalee plans to attend a junior firefighting program this spring. “Novalee has come so far,” Lana says. “I’m so proud of her.”


Hard Work and Determination Pay Off

When Kearstyn was referred to Easterseals Vermont by the Department of Family Services, she was a new mom juggling an extreme set of circumstances. Her substance use was putting custody of her infant daughter, Armani, at risk. Her case was in family court. What Kearstyn did next would make all the difference in keeping them together. 

Kearstyn started meeting with her Easterseals VT Family Engagement Specialist, Jill, for Family Time Coaching sessions. Jill's support of Kearstyn propelled Kearstyn forward. Still, Kearstyn continued to struggle with substance use. She knew it was all coming down to one thing: could she overcome her addiction?

"My case had been open for a while. I had to turn things around. I had this realization in rehab: 'it's now or never," Kearstyn says. "I didn't want to lose my daughter." 

Kearstyn's determination and hard work paid off. On July 7, 2022, Kearstyn's court case officially closed. She had complied with all court conditions to keep her daughter at home with her. 

When asked what made the difference for Kearstyn, Jill says, "She had to believe in herself. That's what it came down to."

Kearstyn and Armani
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