He Was In Foster Care - Now a Former RJLF Fellow is an RJLF Board MembeR
This story was written by the R. J. Leonard Foundation team in cooperation with Miles Hanley, formerly an RJLF Fellow and now an RJLF Board Member. It is a story that has brought Miles Hanley full circle from receiving help from RJLF to now working as a Board Member to offer help to current Fellows. He is an inspiration to all who know him. Here is his story:
By the time Miles reached 10 years old, he had lived in four states, constantly relocating due to the instability of his parent’s marriage and abuse within his family. Miles believes he last saw his father when he was between five and seven years old. It was difficult for his single mother to make ends meet as she raised him and his three rambunctious brothers, and when Miles turned 12, his mother became ill, no longer able to care for them. One day child protective services removed Miles and his siblings from their home with only a few minutes to collect their most precious belongings. After a short period of living with other family members, Miles and his brothers entered the foster care system.
Miles shared that after many challenging years in foster care placements, he was accepted to an Independent Living Program, which allowed him to live on his own while finishing high school. “People assume I had guidance and support,” Miles states, but he ultimately guided himself through school and life challenges. “It must have been a sight for other shoppers to see a teenage boy shopping for groceries by himself.”
At age 16, Miles met his future adoptive parents, Chris and Kelli Hanley. “They grew into my parents … my mentors ... They are a huge influence on my life. From navigating school and its complications to getting my driver’s license, Miles said, “they were there for me. After being in foster care, and a broken home, I had no experience of healthy relationships. They were my role models of how men and women should act. Their lessons and their values have taught me about healthy, loving, committed relationships, and how to be a good person in the world.”
When Miles was referred to the RJLF, he was at West Chester University and needed assistance with the transition from college to a career. At that time Miles told us that he had no professional network. “Having a team of people committed to me and my success gave me confidence to take a risk. With professionals in my corner, I was no longer in a position to lose.” When Miles joined the RJLF as a Fellow he was immediately matched with Jo Leonard who served as his Mentor during his college transition. In addition, he was given many resources such as a laptop, clothing for interviews, a network of industry professionals as well as job search training. He was connected to SAP through Jo Leonard, RJLF’s Founder and current Chief Visionary Officer, and after extensive interview prep prior to the interview he told us that he felt, “so prepared. Every question they asked me I had prepared for.” He received and accepted his job offer promptly after. He also received an Education Scholarship to reduce his loan burden. All of this support empowered him to pursue his goals with more confidence and passion.
Today, Miles is a successful Senior Solutions Engineer at SAP, however, he remains connected to the foster care system as a Board Member of the R.J. Leonard Foundation. When asked why he wanted to continue his involvement in foster care, he immediately responded: “For the Fellows. I believe in the cause, and being a champion for this cause. There is an impact I can provide that others cannot … I want to be able to tell them, ‘Here’s what I learned: to believe in yourself. You are capable. You can create the life you want … as you want it to be. Be confident, and believe in yourself. Believe that you can do.”
About the R.J. Leonard Foundation: The transition from foster care to the ‘real world’ is abrupt. When a foster youth turns 18, they “age out” of the system and are left to shoulder all of the responsibilities of an adult with very little support. And most of the time, with no family. Aging out of foster care unprepared for the real world can have dire consequences. Between 400,000 – 500,000 children in the U.S. are broughtinto the child welfare system each year. In Pennsylvania approximately 13,000 – 15,000 children are currently in foster care or their families are involved in the child welfare system, according to the Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association.