DEVENS — Since she was 7 years old she has been moved from foster home to foster home. But now, turning her life around, Peggy Whitney is living at Transitions at Devens with her son, Gregory.
Whitney, now 18, was placed in her first foster home by the Department of Social Services right before her seventh birthday. She didn’t return to her mother’s house until Gregory was born a year and a half ago.
“My mother is a great mother,” said Whitney. “But she couldn’t control me. I was still angry and upset. DSS really messed me up. It wasn’t their fault, and it wasn’t my fault either. It was just all the emotions.”
“I got myself kicked out of foster home after foster home because I didn’t want to be comfortable,” she said. “So, even though they could have been the best foster family I could ever have, I would start messing up so I would have to leave.”
Whitney said she was insecure about her emotions, which caused her to lash out.
No longer in DSS, Whitney needed to find a way to support herself and Gregory. That’s when she decided to attend Shriver Job Corps in the carpentry division after getting her GED at Mount Wachusett Community College.
“I love making things,” Whitney said. “I always have. I’m a very crafty person.”
Shriver is not just the place Whitney is mastering her craft, it placed her and Gregory in Transitions.
“It’s hard, I’ve never had to live on my own before,” said Whitney. “It’s really hard, I’ll own up to that. I’ve never had to clean up a whole apartment by myself. It’s my job to run my household.”
Receiving little compensation for her work at Job Corps, Whitney receives domestic temporary assignment (DTA) benefits, which pay her rent, necessities for her and her son, and food stamps.
Whitney and her son can stay at Transitions for up to two years, but she doesn’t plan to stay that long.
“I plan on joining the (carpenters) union,” Whitney said. “I want to get a good job with benefits and get my own apartment. If I have the skills to get a job, I feel I should move out (of Transitions) so other families that need the help can move in.”
Whitney said she knows every decision she makes now is not just about her anymore.
“Whenever something comes up I stop and think, ‘How is this going to affect Gregory?'” said Whitney. “It’s no longer about me. It’s all about my son and how to make him safe and happy.”
Whitney said being a mother has definitely changed her — and she’s never been happier.
“I used to be a very angry, rageful little girl,” she said. “I was so bitter, but I basically came to terms with everything. I’m at peace. I accept the things I can’t control.”
Whitney will graduate from Shriver in June. She’s looking forward to her future career in construction, she said, and watching Gregory grow up.