CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — As Amy Moreno walked around the home where she raised her children, her eyes sparkled with the enthusiasm of someone who has found the secret to happiness.
“I was a youth pastor of a youth group that really attracted a lot of at-risk kids and some of those children were in the foster care system,” Moreno said.
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In addition to being a wife and mother, Moreno loved the kids in her youth group, including Brittany. Because the feeling was mutual, Brittany one day asked a question that would change the course of both their lives.
“Can I live with you? And she was like ‘Sure, yeah.’ I think she thought I meant to stay the night,” Brittany said.
“But I looked her in the eye and just knew there was something different about her and her situation,” Moreno added.
Brittany was in what she describes as a bad foster care situation that she wanted out of, so Moreno, her husband, and three daughters welcomed her in.
“Within a week after we brought her in our home, the teachers are like contacting us and saying, ‘What’s going on? Like, Brittany is a different student,'” Moreno said. Eventually, Moreno adopted Brittany.
“This house was also like always loud and like full of laughter and I can remember weekends where we would just sit around the table and laugh all day long. And, I don’t know, I love this house,” Brittany said.
Every year, 1,100 Pennsylvania teens age out of the foster care system. Statistics show that one in four face major problems, including homelessness, substance abuse, and unwanted pregnancy.
Moreno’s former work with Cumberland County children and youth families taught her that. “We started to question how many more young ladies are there that age out of the foster care system and have nowhere to go,” Moreno added.
So, one year ago, Moreno converted her former home into Bethany House. It is now transitional housing for four young women aging out of foster care. She and her volunteers prepare them for adult life.
“Anything they need, we meet them where they are at, when they come into the home and begin setting goals immediately.”
Bethany House provides love, structure, and stability — just what Moreno provided Brittany who says, “like superwoman. Seriously, like the woman of the year.”
“You know, this Remarkable Woman contest is really hard for me to take because I’m not the remarkable woman. I’ve seen these young ladies and I’ve heard their stories and I haven’t been through half of what they’ve been through,” Moreno said.