Breyana Tibbs describes her teenage self as a loose cannonball.
We met Breyana because her mom couldn’t safely care for Breyana or her siblings. As a result, the young teenager, in her words, “crashed” into the foster care system.
Breyana was understandably unhappy and confused. Her frustration led her to run away from her foster home for months at a time, and she was missing critical school hours. She eventually entered into the juvenile justice system—and even faced a challenge from the IRS.
“I’ve been on Breyana’s case—and on her team—for six years, which is longer than anyone else, from social workers to her foster parent,” her Children’s Law Center attorney Katherine Piggott-Tooke said. “She’s gone through some tough spots, but due to her strength, resiliency and perseverance, she has overcome every hurdle.”
Even when she was running away, Breyana knew Piggott-Tooke would always fight for her.
“Katherine called me at least once a week, every single week, while I was in care. She wanted to know if I was okay, if I needed anything,” Breyana recalls. “When a judge wanted me locked away, or I was having problems with CFSA or health coverage, Katherine advocated for me. I could always call her, no matter what kind of a sticky situation I was in, and knew she would always be there.”
Overcoming Barriers, From Education to the IRS
When Breyana discovered she was pregnant, she came to a realization—it was time, as she put it, to “level up,” for herself and her child. She knew she had a chance to be the mom she wished she had for her little girl.
Breyana and Piggott-Tooke went to work.
Piggott-Tooke worked closely with Breyana and her school to create an education plan that would allow Breyana to catch up on the coursework she missed while running away. She also advocated to make sure Breyana had access to the medical and mental health resources she needed.
As Breyana prepared to age out of the foster care system, Piggott-Tooke was there to help Breyana find the best housing option for her and her daughter. They even worked together on a money management plan, helping Breyana create an emergency fund.
“She never gave up on me, like many people have. She helped me become a great advocate for myself,” Breyana recalls.
As Breyana neared her 21st birthday, she faced yet another daunting hurdle, in the form of words that terrify many Americans—you’ve been reported to the IRS. She knew she had filed her taxes correctly, but was accused of receiving $10,000 that didn’t belong to her. After weeks of hard work and advocacy, Piggott-Tooke discovered that the claims were based on rumor and incorrect documentation, and Breyana was cleared of any accusations.
“Katherine did not back down until the entire situation was taken care of,” Breyana remembers. “She wanted to know how my name got involved, why it happened and how they were going to make sure it never happened again.”
From “Cannonball” to a Government Job & a Sweet Baby Girl
Thanks to Breyana’s hard work and Piggott-Tooke’s advocacy, Breyana caught up in school and graduated. She began an internship with the DC government.
Once there, she knew it was the place for her. She quickly formed a reputation for hard work and ambition. She was known as the intern who introduced herself—even to team members who weren’t in her department—and asked what she could help with. Agency leadership recognized her work ethic and professionalism and offered her a permanent spot on the team.
Now, she’s a full-time employee, and knows she can offer her beautiful daughter Ca’Mari the upbringing she wished she had.
She hopes that other children in the foster care system can learn from her story, too.
“Nine of every 10 people will tell you that you’re not going to be anything, or that you will be just like your parents. I’m here to tell you they’re wrong,” Breyana said. “As long as you know your goals and speak up for yourself, you can accomplish whatever you want.”
Her only remaining advice is to never give up on yourself. She never did.
*Breyana's image has been changed. All other details are true.