Quintielie Thomas is the biological mother of three children and de facto mother for many more in her Roanoke Rapids neighborhood. In March of 2014, her life changed forever when she took in Tamika Carter-Norman, a 13-year-old with autism who lived down the street. “I had no obligation to take this girl in, but my heart just wouldn't let me see her go into the system,” Thomas said.

Since then, Thomas has worked to incorporate Tamika into her family and her household. Thomas said there have been challenges in raising Tamika, especially not “knowing how in-depth her autism is.” Overall, though, she said the experience has been positive, especially watching Tamika mature and improve her social skills.

One outcome of Tamika’s presence in the Thomas household has been a decrease in the amount of time Quintielie spends with her youngest daughter, De-Asia Thomas, who is 16. “The only person that I really think that it really hurt or affected was my daughter. She's the baby. She wants her time.”

De-Asia recently became pregnant. Quintielie said she feel’s partly responsible because of the decrease in time spent she with De-Asia. “I guess she was looking for attention too, you know? I carry the guilt for that,” she said. “I learned to manage my time between the both of them now. I hate that it had to take a situation like this to make me realize it but, again, we’re going to be alright.”