Carnita Tyler sees the world as a place with endless possibilities and she is not looking back
Carnita Tyler clearly remembers the day over 12 years ago; when her foster mom told her she was giving her up. Her guardian was relocating that day to Texas when she broke the news.
“My foster mom was fixing my hair, when she told me that she was not taking me with her,” says Tyler (as she prefers to be called). She recalls feeling blindsided. “I had said tearful goodbyes to all my friends at school and completely expected to be moving with her,” says Tyler who was then 14 and living in the foster home for several years.
Reality hit, when a DYFS worker appeared at the door to take her back to the office while they looked for a placement. To this day, Tyler is not really sure why this happened. “I was a typical teenager, maybe a little rebellious, but I wasn’t bad.”
Tyler was transported to the YCS shelter in Newark. “I’d been in and out of shelters with my biological mom as a young child, so, I wasn’t frightened,” says Tyler. This time, however, it was different because she was a teenager. “I was anxious, but I determined that I was going to make the best out of it.”
Debbie McCrae, Tyler’s case manager, recalls the day.
When Tyler arrived at the Newark Grace Hall Shelter she was quiet and reserved. Although we worked equally hard to insure the well being of all our youth, Tyler always stood out. She was self directed and determined to continue her education as an honor student. She woke up early every morning, on her own, and took two city buses to get to school.
She eventually distinguished herself as a leader amongst the other youth at the shelter and often encouraged and advocated for them. Tyler has a kind, courageous spirit. I saw how special she was and wanted to make sure she knew she was safe in our care and that she mattered.
About 18 months later, when the state deemed she was ready to be moved into a less restrictive environment, Tyler had lots of options. “Several of the staff at the shelter wanted to adopt me…they could see I was a good girl,” explains Tyler. She opted instead to return to foster care, but this time with a person she knew and felt she could implicitly trust – McRae, her case manager.
To this day, Tyler has a close relationship with McCrae, whom she calls mom. What attracted Tyler the most to McRae was her quiet demeanor. “She never raised her voice at the shelter and was always reserved and calm. This was the type of person I knew I wanted to be around,” explains Tyler.
“My mom showed me how to be a woman…How to step out of myself and be a good person and do for others.” She is a generous person and that makes me want to be more generous.”
After living with McCrae and her daughter, Alia, for about 18 months, Tyler transitioned into an independent living program at 17 ½. She says her mom was worried about her, but she felt she had to do it for herself.
“You have to be independent when you are a foster child,” asserts Tyler. After spending nine years in foster care, she was ready to venture out on her own. But, her mom was never far away. She lived right around the corner and they were in touch all the time. In fact, McCrae thinks she was at her home more then she was at her apartment.
“My mom gave me a lot of freedom and always encouraged me to speak up and be myself,” says Tyler. It has paid off. After finishing high school, Tyler attended St. Peter’s College for one year before exploring other options. Following her passion for toddlers and young children, Tyler worked as a teacher at a day care center and preschool for 5 years. During that time, she became a certified yoga instructor and now teaches several classes for children. Most recently, she has gone out on her own and started a company called The Feeling Method, LLC. She currently works as a nanny for a family with two children. She has also been assisting a doula and will begin studying for her certification in the fall.
“Tyler has a true calling and is passionate about the care of infants and young children. She simply wants the best for all children,” says McCrae.
I am blessed to call Tyler and Alia my daughters. They absolutely complete me. Tyler is a creative and beautiful soul. She is an example of triumphant forgiveness and inspiration. She is a unique individual, an amazing self-sufficient woman. I have no doubt that her journey although challenging is going to lead her to an extraordinary destiny. I sometimes refer to her as my “YCS Baby” and I couldn’t imagine my life without her.