A Family's Journey

Training Opportunities

Join the FCU

Youth Advisory Board

Child Welfare
Resource Center

Family Group
Decision Making






I am Denise Hoffman and I am a Parent Ambassador at the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program (Training Program). 

My journey at the Training Program began six months ago.  My journey into child welfare began around twelve years old when my father left.  He left my mom and us four kids and we never saw or heard from him again.  This was probably a good thing that he left because he was very abusive. 

After my dad left, my mom started going out all the time.  There were times that she would not come home for days at a time.  We moved from apartment to apartment because she would stop paying the rent.  Often we had no food in the house.  Our only meal some days was our free lunch that we received at school.  There were often times that we did not have electric either.  I would then take on babysitting jobs to get money to buy food.  Eventually, I started running away.  I would go to my boyfriends house and ended up moving in there.     

My three younger siblings and my mom were staying with her brother and his family.  Until one day my mom left and did not come back for two weeks.  My uncle called child welfare and the workers showed up at my uncle’s house and took the kids.  My mom happened to be there that day and she didn’t even try to fight to keep the kids.  She just let them be taken away.  I myself didn’t go into foster care.  I became emancipated at the age of sixteen. 

My siblings went to live with a foster parent who was horrible!!  I used to go visit them when she would let me.  Sometimes she didn’t allow it.  My siblings then got split up and my sister went to live with an aunt and uncle and their family.  She stayed with them until she graduated from high school and went out on her own.  My brothers went to live with a different aunt and uncle but it didn’t last long.  I think it was just too much for the aunt and uncle.  They had three boys of their own. 

My brothers then went to live with foster parents.  They were pretty good to them.  My youngest brother came to my house all the time.  When I turned eighteen I wanted him to live permanently with me.  But the case worker thought it was best to keep my brother where he was and just spend weekends, holidays and summer vacations with me.  The caseworker visited me often and talked to me about how things were going.  I think she did the best she could.  I had already been deprived of a childhood and I think she was just looking out for me.  My youngest brother was only eight when he was put into care.  I was the oldest and thought I was supposed to take care of them but I couldn’t.

As for my mom, we did not see or talk to her for about five years.  When I did see her for the first time, it was really weird.  She looked so much older and it did not feel comfortable at all.  It did not feel like she was my mom.  I still had a lot of “whys and how you could” but we started rebuilding a relationship.  Today my mom and I have a good relationship.  She is an excellent grandmother to my children and an excellent great-grandmother to my grandson.  My siblings also formed a relationship with her.  My siblings have had a really hard time in life as have I.  I am lucky that I have chosen to do more positives things than negatives where some of my siblings have not. 

Today, I feel lucky and blessed to be where I am.  I’m happily married with two wonderful children, four step-children, three adorable granddaughters and one amazing grandson.  I am also so happy to be making a difference in other lives while working here at the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program.