Bella's Story


A story from the Young Parents Stories

Bella (she/they) is a 22-year-old trans mother who gives their all to their family. Their story to find a safe, stable housing for their partner and two children depicts how the broken housing system forces young families to experience homelessness and live in unsafe places. Their experience with the foster care system also shows how the system doesn’t prepare youth to transition into mainstream society, and how discrimination towards trans youth results in an even steeper climb to adulthood and parenthood. The story is told from the perspective of Nora (she/her), a case manager from the Nurse-Family Partnership program, who helped and supported Bella through some of the toughest times in their journey.

This page has been optimized to be best viewed on a mobile device.

I had been a nurse for many years. I’d thought I’d seen all of the struggles people could go through.

Bella’s story was something new.

As a child, Bella had some happy moments.

But those happy moments were overshadowed by a difficult home life.

Bella was struggling as a teen, and their family didn’t give them the emotional support they needed most.

When they asked for help, all they got was verbal abuse.

One day, they heard a loud KNOCK|KNOCK|KNOCK on the door.

Bella was taken away that night, so they could live “somewhere safer.”

If only things were that simple.

Bella was rotated through various family members, foster homes, and shelters, until they were put in a group home for older youth.

But I wouldn’t call it a “home.”

For no reason other than Bella's gender identity, the older youth assaulted and attacked themdaily.

Their possessions were stolen.

Bella was given clothes that didn’t align with their gender expression.

When they looked to the adults for help, the adults turned their backs.

The staff enabled the abuse.

So Bella left.

Without stable housing or a support network, Bella had nowhere to go.

That night, they slept on the street.

Then the next night.

And the next.

Bella was alone, unsafe, and losing hope.

Then, Bella fell in love.

Angel was the supporting, loving partner of their dreams.

They both had always wanted to start a family, and soon they would.

People doubted the ability for two trans youth to have children.

But Aiko was a miracle.

Bella wanted more than anything to be a loving, caring mother.

Without secure housing, they questioned whether they were a good parent. Even though they are.

With nowhere to go, Bella, Angel, and their new baby were stuck in a revolving door of homelessness.

They moved from one motel to another, one couch to the next, and one parking lot to another.

I can’t imagine trying to raise a child when you don’t have a place to call home.

More than anything, Bella and their family needed a place to live.

Eventually, Bella decided to live with their mother. The landlord gave them a hard time only because Bella was trans.

Their mother would criticize Bella’s parenting, telling them how to parent “the right way.”

After a while, Bella realized that this home wasn’t going to work for their family. They had to look for other solutions.

They tried to get a job.

But, with a flag on their record, no one would hire them.

It was as if the systemwanted Bella to fail.

Bella looked to government agencies for support.

But the staff wanted to take their baby away.

It took a pro bono lawyer to keep their family together.

For now, Bella and their family are still on the move, in search of their new home.

What happens to a young family when they are invisible to the system?

What happens when young people leave foster care and have no home to go to, or arms to fall into?

What happens to the next generation?

Young people in the foster care system have a steep climb, as they move toward independence.

Love, and the right policies, can do a lot to lift up young people like Bella.

If they are going to succeed, they need self-aware adults, a system that is just and equitable, and a reliable way to find stability for their families.

Actual photos of Bella and their family at the park

How You Can Help 

To learn how you can begin to help other young parents like Bella, visit the Journey to Success campaign website.


Thank you, Bella, for graciously lending your time to share your story with us, and allowing us to take a peek at a slice of your life. Your experiences, insights, and suggestions have shaped and redefined the conversations around young parents, and we hope that this story continues to do so.

Thank you to the Annie E. Casey Foundation for funding this project, and to Journey to Success for being a partner. 

Thank you to artist Tony Midi and to DALL·E for the creation of our illustrations. Lastly, thank you to those who was involved in the revision of this story and to those who helped make this story possible.

Suggested Citation

Natalie, P., Arroyo, I., Fishbein, J., Garrido, M., Sufrinko, N., & Cowsert, M. (2023). Young Parents Stories. Healthy Teen Network. https://www.reshapingnetwork.org/resources/young-parents-stories/bella

Discover the magic of the Network.