At 16, Yasmin Amali Snyder was about to give up.
Ten years in the foster care system. Multiple homes. Little morsels of happiness every now and then.
But this Christmas, Snyder is celebrating in an entirely new way. Sunday, Nov. 19, Snyder was adopted on National Adoption Day.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Snyder said. “We waited for what felt like forever, and we were all crying with happiness and relief.”
THE DAY THEY MET
For four years, Winter Garden residents Ben and Michelle Snyder have opened their home to vulnerable children as foster parents. In that time, they’ve helped more than 20 children.
“Faith is at the very heart of everything we do,” Michelle said. “Our time on this earth is so short, and I feel like our biggest call on this earth is to love other people.”
But in November 2020, they felt they wanted to take another step — adoption. Three months later, the couple found Yasmin’s profile on the Miami Heart Gallery.
By May, Ben and Michelle had begun to speak with Yasmin over Zoom. They eventually introduced their two biological children, Benjamin, 12, and Annabelle, 9, to Yasmin.
The kids immediately clicked.
“The minute we met Yasmin we just fell in love,” Benjamin said.
At the end of May, the family met Yasmin in Miami and spent the day with her riding go-karts, conquering an escape room and learning about one another.
“The first time we met, I was scared, emotional and nervous,” Michelle said. “I didn’t know if she was going to like us or want anything to do with us.”
Yasmin didn’t know what to expect, either.
“I knew I wanted to move forward, but I didn’t know what they were thinking or if they wanted to give me a chance,” Yasmin said. “I was so nervous, and I really wanted Benjamin and Annabelle to like me.”
In the beginning of July, Yasmin moved into the family’s West Orange home.
Yasmin’s presence lights up a room. Her bubbling personality overflows with excitement. Her joy spreads to those who surround her.
You’d never know what she’s been through in her first 16 years of life.
Born in Miami, Yasmin lived in various parts of the city throughout her childhood. By 6, she entered the foster care system, where she remained for five years. In that time, she lived in several different temporary homes.
When Yasmin was 11 years old, she was returned to her birth mother for a year. But then, she was placed back into the system.
Yasmin said she had good experiences but also dealt with abuse — including being teased with food and living in unfit conditions with bedbugs or rodents that would chew holes in her clothes.
Although she often felt alone, Yasmin said she grew up in the system with one of her older biological sisters, Natasha, who helped her endure the struggle.
From age 13 on, Yasmin knew she wanted to be adopted.
“I always knew that this wasn’t always going to be my life — even if I had to stay in foster care until the time I was 18,” she said. “I always knew that once I was out of it, I was going to go to college, and I was going to make a name for myself and not have to live the way that I lived when I was younger.”
Yasmin suffered through three failed adoption processes, and she was almost ready to give up. She took a few months to collect herself then mustered up the courage to try again.
“I knew I could not stay in this system,” Yasmin said. “I wanted a family, and I know that’s what I needed, and I know what I can do for a family, and what they can do for me. I had come too far to give up.”
And then, she met the Snyders, who truly saw Yasmin, her heart and her determination.
“Yas is so resilient; it’s amazing,” Michelle said. “The fact that she went through all of this and believed in the process and never gave up makes me so proud of her and so thankful.”
A BRAND NEW START
Now in Winter Garden, Yasmin is thriving.
In August, she began classes at Foundation Academy, where she currently holds a 3.75 GPA and enjoys reading and science.
Like any change, the new school is an adjustment.
“I have my good days and my bad days, but I love my school, and I always aim to do well,” Yasmin said. “It’s so weird, because in Miami, we would see a test or quiz every other week. Now we have multiple tests throughout the week. I feel like now I have a deeper understanding of what I’m learning and can apply that.”
Yasmin said she used to use school as an excuse to stay away from home as long as possible when she was in the system. Now, she looks forward to coming home to her family.
“I had never had anyone to help me go through life, and my parents help me so much,” Yasmin said. “They taught me how to communicate, and they never raise their voice at me. Even if I get in trouble, I am always safe.”
She is also a member of the school’s dance and cheer teams.
“I feel like it helps bring out my personality more,” Yasmin said of cheerleading. “I do have a very cheery and upbeat personality, and cheer helps me get that energy out while also helping me exercise, make friends, maintain my flexibility and have fun.”
The 16-year-old already has gained popularity at her school, neighborhood and in the community.
She is close with several foster families in the neighborhood and says she finally feels like she can open up about herself and not feel embarrassed.
Yasmin is involved with Mosaic Church and volunteers frequently. She also joined the youth group.
“I want to be able to share my story to help other kids who are going through similar situations,” Yasmin said. “I found my forever family, and others can, too.”
To help find forever families for local children in foster care, click here.