Abby's Story - AMP | Achieving Maximum Potential

Abby's Story


My name is Abby.  I have been a member of Iowa's Foster Care Youth Council, called AMP, since 2013.  AMP was named by the members for the council's ability to help foster teens "Achieve Maximum Potential". 

My first exposure to AMP was at age thirteen.  I am an adult now, but then I was a young girl in a group home treatment facility for the first time.  I felt like I had no one to turn to and no one to fall back on.  My therapist told me about AMP.  At AMP meetings, teens in foster care get together one or two times a month, learn about living independently, leadership opportunities and giving back to their local communities.

Being with others who have similar experiences helps us cope and hopefully heal a bit.  AMP is led by a trained facilitator whose role is to make us feel welcome and safe, as well as to educate about programs and services for teens in foster care.  Snacks are frequently involved.  AMP is available in 14 locations, through the DHS contract with YSS Inc., a child serving agency in Ames Iowa.  AMP is a truly remarkable program!  I was in and out of the child welfare system from age 8-16.  My mom paid more attention to men and drugs than me.  I went to school in dirty clothes that didn’t fit; I was bullied.  By the time I was twelve, I was struggling.  I felt unloved and I was angry.  DHS tried to find safe family members for me to live with; Dad’s home didn’t work any better than mom’s.  Staying with relatives and even another try with Dad ultimately failed. 

All attempts to live with family exhausted, family foster care became a viable option.  DHS let me try it out first, just a few days, they called it respite.  From my point of view, it was better than a group home.  Better than running away. 

Foster parents get pretty good at seeing heartbreak and knowing what to do.  One night I received a call from my birth dad saying he didn’t want me to come home.  I was in a restaurant with my foster parents and they saw me begin to cry.  My foster Dad said, “Don’t worry, you have somewhere to go.  You’ll stay with us.”  Stay I did.

I continued to attend AMP meetings while in foster care.  I was now closer to age sixteen and ready to believe in myself.  AMP helps teens find what they are good at.  Taking pictures is “my thing”; it’s how I express myself.  I have always loved photography and I was finally doing it.  I got a photo gig at the Anne & Bill Riley Talent Search at the Iowa State Fair, taking photos of the talented youth during competition.

It became apparent I needed a good camera so AMP connected me to the “Dream Seed” grant and I purchased my first professional camera equipment.  Other good things began to happen.  I met the love of my life and became a homeowner.  Most recently, I opened a photography studio, which bears my name. 

I am grateful.  From a background of abuse, neglect and hate, I have built something beautiful.  I take photos of babies, weddings and AMP events.  I take senior pictures of teens in foster care; giving back to the community that encouraged my talent to blossom.

AMP changes people’s lives.  I know, because one of the lives it changed was mine.   


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