The Journey of Anthony J: A Story of Transformation and Hope

In late 2016, a young boy named Anthony J.* found a new beginning in Santa Rosa, California in his foster parents’ home, Laura Thompson* and Miguel Ruiz*. At just 11 years old, Anthony had experienced several foster care placements and faced significant challenges, including depression, mood swings, and difficulties in school.
Anthony’s life took a critical turn in February 2017. He collapsed at home and was rushed to the emergency room in Santa Rosa, where he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after entering a diabetic coma. Thanks to the swift actions of his foster parents, Anthony suffered no brain damage. Despite initial struggles to stabilize his glucose levels, Anthony received expert care at Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where he and his foster family spent two weeks.
During this trying time, the support from Alternative Family Services (AFS) was pivotal. AFS arranged for diabetes education for Anthony and his foster family and coordinated with Tandem, a manufacturer of automatic insulin pumps. Understanding the financial burden of such medical equipment, AFS advocated for Anthony to receive a free insulin pump valued at $8,000-$10,000. This tool was a game-changer for him, providing stability to his medical condition and a new lease on life.
Further support came from Sonoma County, which approved Intensive Services Foster Care with comprehensive mental health services, significantly aiding Anthony’s psychological and emotional well-being. At a turning point, Anthony attended the Buddy Camp at Bearskin Meadows in 2018, a camp for children with diabetes. There, he learned to manage his condition more independently and effectively advocate for his health needs.
Recognizing Anthony’s emerging interest in music, AFS enrolled him in a music class where he discovered his talent and passion for the cello. This newfound interest was not just a hobby but a pivotal part of his healing process. Music for Life, the local nonprofit organization provided Anthony with a free cello. This support allowed him to continue his musical journey, even requiring his foster family to upgrade their vehicle to accommodate the large instrument!
Anthony’s life transformed with the support of his dedicated foster family, AFS, and community resources. The challenging behaviors he once struggled with began to diminish. His grades improved, he became more social, and his mood swings stabilized. Anthony’s journey through foster care to a stable and promising future exemplifies the profound impact that targeted support and compassionate care can have on foster youth.
Today, Anthony is a thriving Santa Rosa Junior College student, working part-time and preparing to transfer to a university. Under the guardianship of his devoted foster family, he continues to show that every child can overcome adversity and succeed with the right support and opportunities.
This story is a testament to how donations and community support can directly change a life. For many youth, every contribution to AFS has the potential to turn challenges into triumphs.

This story is a testament to how donations and community support can directly change a life. For many youth, every contribution to AFS has the potential to turn challenges into triumphs.

* ​Names changed to protect identities.

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Alternative Family Services

Alternative Family Services (AFS) provides thoughtful, informed foster care, adoption and mental health services throughout California’s San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento region. Since 1978, the mission of AFS has been – and continues to be – to support vulnerable children and families in need of stability, safety and well-being in communities through foster care, adoption and mental health services.

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