OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich.,-- After beginning her career in law enforcement, Danette Nordhof has truly found her niche working with teens in the foster care system. As a case worker with the non-profit agency Samaritas, Nordhof has created a very special bond with several of the girls on her case load.
"My family knows that I have other children. These are my children," Nordhof told FOX 17 News. "Family is what you make it, so these girls know that I am always there for them."
Sensing a void in the foster care system, Nordhof wanted to create a home for her girls that would help them succeed.
"I really felt that it was a necessity, that we needed to fill the gap between residential. and just them being out on their own," she explained. "Teens are some of the hardest to place in the foster care system."
Working closing with Samaritas, Nordhof was able to see her vision become a reality, when an independent living home for teen girls opened up in Holland this summer. Nordhof assisted with cleaning and decorating the home, before the first girls moved in.
Currently, four teens and a baby live in the home. Thanks to Nordhof, dubbed "Mama D" by the girls, they have become like family.
"I can go to her with anything," said 18-year-old Kat Harrison, the first girl to move into the home. "She has a bond with everyone in the house. We all get along... Wouldn't know what to do without her."
"Mama D" is never more than a call away. She drops by several times a week, and even stays the night if need.
"It's not 9-5," Nordhof said. ""Whatever [they] need. I'm there. I'm there at 2am, I'm there at 5am. I'm there at 11pm. I don't care. They're my kids."
From cleaning to budgeting, Nordhof is also the one teaching the girls important life skills.
"My hope is that when they are in their 30's, that they can look back and say, I remember that... And I hope they beat the system," said Nordhof. "I want them to understand that they can achieve everything that they put their heart and desire to."
Harrison says meeting Nordhof has changed her life, for the better.
"She's like a second mom to me," she said. "I love her, and I just want to thank her for never giving up on me. And believing in me the whole time."
Working with these teens, has also changed Nordhof's life.
"They are awesome, awesome girls," she told FOX 17 News."I was just so fortunate to be able to have them in my life because they've enriched my life, in ways they don't even know."
As the Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Nordhof is receiving a prize of $300 dollars.