Hearts of Yolo: Payton Hensley

Thursday, Jun 20, 2019

On May 4, 2011 Payton’s life changed forever. “That was the day CPS was called and I was taken into foster care,” states Payton. “I didn’t know it then, but I would never go ‘home’ again.”

In 2007, Payton’s father passed away. Shortly after, Payton’s mom moved them to California to care for Payton’s aunt, who had cervical cancer and also ultimately passed away. “After my dad’s death, the move to California, and during my aunt’s illness and death, my mother turned to drugs. Despite all of this, my mother was the only family I had left, and I didn’t know anything different. It wasn’t until later that I realized how different my childhood really was from others.”

During Payton’s first year in the dependency system, she was placed in a total of seven different homes. Maggie Sanger was appointed as her CASA volunteer shortly after she was taken into care. Payton states, “Maggie was the only constant factor that I’ve had in my life since 2011. Her presence was especially meaningful during my first year in care, which I can only describe as tumultuous. Even after that though, I’ve had at least a dozen social workers, yet Maggie has been there from start to finish.”

While Payton’s childhood was filled with worry and responsibility well beyond her years, she has several fond memories of Maggie taking her to do “normal” things. She remembers her first trip to the California State Fair in 2012 with Maggie fondly. “It was a magical day. I felt so free. We just did fun things, watched motor cross, and I just remember this feeling of having no responsibilities that day. It was so different than how my life usually was.”

In addition to helping Payton see the lighter side of childhood, Maggie also helped Payton through some tough times. Payton recalls her senior year of high school. “I was so burned out and really wanted to be done with school. Maggie helped me switch schools to a charter school and I successfully graduated. If it weren’t for her and her advocacy, I don’t know if I would have completed high school.”

Speaking of advocacy, Payton remembers Maggie always being by her side for tough decisions. “She was always at court, she always made sure I was okay in school. It was her constant support and check-ins that made me feel like I had someone in my corner, all to myself during my many years in foster care. It’s hard to describe, but you just don’t get that when you are a foster kid. There are too many of us.”

Payton is now aged out of the system. She met her husband when she was in high school and they moved into their own place when she turned 18. They have a nine-month old daughter together and Maggie was at Payton’s side when she recently got married. “As I mentioned, she is always there. These days, I think of her as an aunt.”

Payton currently works as a patient care coordinator for an audiologist and attends college. She hopes someday to become an attorney. “I tend to be a workaholic and Maggie helps talk me through things and find balance. For example, she helped me navigate taking a semester off when I had my daughter, and helps me set realistic goals to achieve my dreams. She gives really great advice. I know to most people, having someone to help you navigate life’s challenges seems like a given, but again, for a former foster child, it feels like a gift.”

As for Maggie, she calls Patyon a “Rockstar.” Be sure to read her Hearts of Yolo story here. “I love having someone to be proud of me and celebrate life’s special moments with me, like the birth of my amazing daughter” states Payton, “I know that an hour a week might not seem like that much, but to a foster child, it changes everything.”

To anyone considering becoming a CASA volunteer, Payton asks that they keep her story in mind. “I can without a doubt say that my life would be completely different without Maggie. She’s been instrumental in so many ways and a fixture in my life for the past eight years.”

For technical questions and comments regarding this website,
please contact the Webmaster.