Inspired by a mother who cared for her and her own life circumstances, Cynthia Molina is changing lives as a social worker with Boys & Girls Aid in Portland

Inspired by the loss of her mother and the challenge of raising two children as a single mom, Cynthia Molina has found purpose doing one simple thing: meeting people where they’re at.

It sounds simple and even cliché, but it’s the essence of Molina’s work as the neighborhood program director of Boys and Girls Aid in Portland, an adoption agency committed to helping foster children find families.

The statistics are sobering: More than 5,000 children are currently living in Oregon’s foster care system. Most will move four times within the first year. Fewer than 5% will attend college. And just over 50% will not graduate from high school. The chances of them becoming homeless or incarcerated are significantly higher than their peers.

Ultimately, children in foster care frequently enter a tailspin that leaves them mistrusting adults and adopting a fight or flight mentality.

Enter Molina, who takes the time to get to know these children, find solutions for their tumultuous home lives, and offer tools to help them find their way in the world.

“To me, it’s important to meet people where they are at – to come in with an open mind and allow them to feel heard and safe to express their needs, wants and beliefs,” says Molina, a graduate of George Fox University’s Master of Social Work program. “To see an individual for who they are and want to be is so important. I want to empower them to be the best version of themselves. Learning what is important to them is imperative in their process of growth and healing. I sit with them in the comfortable and uncomfortable.”


Molina’s passion for social work was ignited while working at an elementary school. Witnessing firsthand the challenges and hardships children face moved her deeply. As the single mother of two herself, she was inspired to be an advocate for children who couldn’t advocate for themselves.

She found further inspiration from her mother, who modeled compassion for her and encouraged her to pursue a career in social work. Sadly, her mom passed away shortly after Molina’s graduation from the MSW program in May of 2019 – an event that made Molina want to help others all the more.

“I’m passionate about social work because I have always wanted to work in a field that helps others,” she says. “And, as a Hispanic, one of my passions is to be able to aid the Hispanic/Latino community, to educate them. I am also very intrigued by how human beings’ minds work and often look for the correlation between things to help my clients live a better life. I like to do research and help people in a holistic way and empower them.”

In one such instance, Molina served as a therapist for a troubled youth who threatened to run away from home. After six months of sessions, she was able to deescalate the situation and establish a bridge of trust between the young man and his parents, while also equipping him with the tools to communicate in a way that was respectful and loving toward his family.

“It’s just one of the many stories I could share where I felt my education really helped guide me to walk alongside my client and help him make sense of things that he was unable to see clearly,” she says.

Molina credits George Fox’s small cohort format, caring professors and practical training for equipping her to do her job well.

“The smaller cohorts really helped my learning, as there was time to have real conversations about various topics,” she says. “The group tasks, projects and presentations made me get out of my comfort zone and gave me the tools to do proper research on topics affecting mental health.

“They say you should probably not have a full-time job if at all possible, as this program will require a lot out of you. While that is true, I had no choice but to continue to work full time, go to college full time, and do my internship. I found that my professors were caring and were there to provide the needed support while I dealt with life as a single mom. They also pushed for the best in their students and sometimes pushed hard, but I needed that despite the troubles in my personal life. 

“Overall, George Fox was a great match for my learning style, and I was able to enhance my life because I now have a career that I love.”

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