Genevieve Traversy is a wife, mother, former foster child, foster parent, and now a foster care family recruiter with Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC).
Turmoil began in Traversy’s family when her father abandoned them when she was only three years old. Her mother was left to care for her and her two brothers. They soon became homeless and the three siblings were placed in foster care. She said her identity then became ward of the state of Massachusetts.
Traversy lived in 16 different foster homes from the age of 3 to 18.
“I felt like a burden to other families. My mother had her own addiction struggles. I believe she had too much guilt to overcome,” Traversy said. “Eventually after being in over a dozen foster care homes, I became lonely, angry, resentful, and even rebellious. Because of my rebellion, I became pregnant at the age of 15, so then my identity became a single teen mother.”
The pregnancy was almost too much for Traversy as a young teenager, and she admitted that she contemplated suicide. But once her son was born, she found a new drive to keep pushing to make their lives better by getting her education.
She graduated high school with her toddler and future husband, Shawn, by her side, and signed herself out of foster care at 18.
“I don’t think I slept at all. I would wake up at 5 a.m. and get ready and drop him off at daycare. Then I would go to school,” Traversy said. “During my last year I asked for permission to get out early so I could go to work. Then I went to work at a catalog company from 1 to 4 p.m. and then worked as a waitress somewhere else until they closed.”
Also during this time, Traversy was traveling and telling her story to the foster care world. She spoke at high schools, foster parent classes, and fostering conferences.
When she was a teenager, case workers would ask her to share her story at different high schools around Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
After high school, Traversy attended Springfield College where she started her own nonprofit, Lean On Us, to serve foster and adopted children. Every month the group got together to do fun activities like going on a hayride or having a cookout.
“I wanted to make sure they didn’t feel like they were alone,” she said. “They needed to know that someone understood them.”
She and her husband had three more children and then moved to North Carolina, eventually landing in Lexington.
“We sold everything. We had no work lined up. It was a true leap of faith. But God has placed so many beautiful people in our lives.”
After moving to North Carolina, Traversy opened a dance studio and allowed foster children and kids who were adopted to attend classes at no charge. The studio was donation-based and Traversy said it was open to children from low-income families and children with disabilities.
“We had children with autism and Down syndrome. We also had children with brain tumors. It was just amazing to see them all flourish. It was beautiful.”
After six years with the dance studio and also working at the YMCA as a personal trainer, Traversy started to feel like she needed to make a change and become more involved in foster care. That’s when she saw an advertisement for the foster care family recruiter position with LSC. She knew immediately it would be her dream job.
She says success stories like hers don’t happen often.
“It was hard,” Traversy said. “I feel like my guardian angels are on crutches right now. I want to be inspiring to those in foster care, or those who are fostering or adopting. I love it,” Traversy said.
“Foster care is my heart and my soul. I breathe it every moment. God gave me that path. He makes beauty from ashes.”
Two years ago, Traversy became a foster parent to a one-year-old baby girl named Amaris. After fostering the baby for a while, the family were blessed to adopt her.
Even though Traversy now has five children of her own, she is still is a respite foster parent. This means that she can temporarily care for another family’s foster children so the parents can get away for some restorative time.
She also knows her true identity now. Her foster care files listed dozens of different homes, but she said those never truly explained who she was and still is.
“I’ve learned my true identity is a child of God,” she said.