Samantha Diaz - Essential in Many Ways
While most 12-year-old girls are wavering between playing with dolls or having school boy crushes, keenly aware of social media platforms that seem to define a “tween”, Samantha Diaz was spending her pre-teen days in a real-life story of survival. Ironically, over a decade later, she finds herself in another story of survival. While battling the Covid-19 pandemic as a DCF Investigator, this front-line worker is submerged in the work while adapting to this new norm.
At just 12 years old, Samantha felt compelled to take care of her three younger sisters ages 2, 5 and 10 years due to a complex set of family circumstances. One night, in order to ensure everyone's safety, Samantha packed a bag for herself and her sisters and walked down the busy streets of New York to her grandmother's home. This began her journey into foster care. In the middle of the night, Child Welfare workers found her and her sisters and took them to what Samantha remembered as a large tenement. There were many children, separated in different rooms by age and gender. She and her sisters were initially separated and within a few days they were placed into two different foster homes with limited sibling visits. Samantha recalls a defining moment where she met a teen boy named, "Alexander", who was frantic because he was separated from his siblings and felt so helpless and all alone. It was at that moment in time when she became emphatic that she would never allow any system to separate her from her sisters.
Samantha recalls those years in foster care as difficult while she remained concerned for her siblings and the care they were receiving. She often questioned if they would live together again. Samantha easily recalls how she looked after them, worried for her siblings and yearned to be placed together again. Two years after placement, Samantha, together with her three younger siblings, moved to CT and were placed into relative care, ultimately being adopted and raised with her cousins. When asked about life with her extended family, Samantha explained “they did the best they could” but family stressors and other factors again surfaced. Samantha felt that she and her adoptive mother struggled to form a relationship because Samantha was a parentified child and felt an obligation to care for her sisters. Samantha said, “those were my babies and I just couldn’t let that go”.
While Samantha was in her senior year at Southern Connecticut State University, pursuing a degree in Social Work, a series of family tragedies took place. This required her once again to become the protector of her young siblings, and now cousins. Samantha moved back home after graduation, caring for all her siblings and cousins while applying for a position at DCF. When asked to leave the home, Samantha, now considered homeless, was allowed to move back onto her college campus for the summer months. That summer, she accepted a job at DCF and started to plan a new life for herself and her siblings.
After beginning her position at DCF she was able to afford the rent for a small apartment where her siblings would visit together every day, eat dinner and shower and return back to their home. "Siblings" now included birth siblings and her cousins. Samantha vividly recalls leaving work each night at 5 p.m. to make double trips back and forth to her apartment because she couldn’t fit everyone in her small car. Soon after, Samantha was able to afford an even bigger apartment so that all her siblings and cousins could move in with her, that’s when “we became one”. When Samantha was 23 years old, she petitioned the Probate Court and received legal custody of her younger sister and cousin. In her home now resides these youth along with three other relatives who are young adults. Samantha said, “I had no choice, but I would have it no other way”.
Samantha is, extraordinary. Selfless beyond measure. She is a devoted “mother” to all her siblings and cousins and has their best interests in mind. She worked tirelessly her whole life to nurture and to guide and to provide reassurance to her family members. A role model, a giver. A shield and an advocate. Fiercely protective. When asked why she chose to become a social worker, Samantha said “because I wanted to make sure that no child ever had to go through what we went through”. She “understands all the emotions that a foster child has” and feels that she can help, even more so because of her own story.
Samantha also remembered Alexander, that teen she met many years ago, who lost touch with his siblings. His words have resonated for over a decade and reminds her of the significance of the sibling connection. Samantha is ever so grateful for the kindness of strangers, “all of the angels that were in my path”, referring to her teachers, Resident Assistants at the SCSU dormitory, her DCF Training Supervisor and colleagues.
This past summer, Samantha purchased her own 3-bedroom house. She became engaged in December to a remarkable young man who embraced her journey and has become a father figure to her siblings. He was the one who originally taught her how to drive a car years ago, prepped her for all her interviews and has been a constant support for the past four years."
In a world that has been rather unkind, Samantha shows no bitterness. She spoke with sincere forgiveness for her parents and a depth of gratitude for adoptive relatives for opening their home so that she could live with her sisters. She spoke of her family with undeniable pride.
Samantha lost her own childhood for her sisters. She is a beautiful example of courage and self-sacrifice, gifted with sincere humility.
Samantha Diaz is our unsung hero, not only because of this story but because of the work that she is doing now as a DCF Investigator. Then, and now, this selfless young woman has the best interest of others in mind.
Samantha Diaz is 26 years old.
“Mother” of six children.
She is an Investigations Social Worker in the New Britain DCF Office
She has been employed by DCF for 3 ½ years and said
“I love the work”
Her future ambition: to be a foster mom.
Watch an interview with Samantha and her sister