There are millions of children across the country that are forced to grow up in unsafe environments, but thanks to the selfless heart of one New Bedford bus driver 30 years ago, three little girls got a second chance at a better childhood.

Today, that bus driver and one of the children met again for a very emotional reunion.

Amanda Joseph grew up in New Bedford. Her mother suffered from addiction, leaving Joseph and her younger sister neglected and oftentimes fending for themselves.

Amanda’s van driver, Kathy Neves, took notice of four-year-old Amanda, and without truly knowing what was going on in Amanda’s home, decided to help this little girl.

“Kathy didn’t know the details, but she would actually come pick me up earlier than the other students before her shift and she would braid and brush my hair and bring me breakfast,” Joseph said. Neves would even bring her dresses that she got from thrift stores. Neves knew that no one was helping young Amanda get ready for school, so she took on that role.

Soon after, Amanda and her younger sister were taken into the department of social services after Neves blew the whistle on the girls’ living situation. Little Amanda was waving to Neves one morning out of a broken window. Joseph recalled Kathy warning her to stay away from the glass and immediately got the school involved, which landed four-year-old Amanda, her one-year-old sister, and her other newborn sister into foster care for six years.

Courtesy of Amanda Joseph
Courtesy of Amanda Joseph

“My mother became terminally ill and signed over her parental rights. Her one request was to have all three of us girls get adopted together,” Joseph said. At the ages of 10, 6, and 5, the girls were adopted into a loving home that Joseph is proud to call family.

Now, at the age of 34, Joseph lives in Somerville and belongs to a group called Confidence at a Bible-based church called Impact, made of up several women that aim to build each other up. During a recent meeting, Joseph shared her story, and the group encouraged her to get in touch with Neves again.

Joseph took to Facebook on a Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning, she had tracked down her guardian angel.

"We met at Percy’s Place in Middleboro and I brought my one-year-old son," Joseph said. "I told her thank you for helping and inspiring me to be kind to others. Even though she doesn’t think that what she did was extraordinary, it meant a lot to me.”

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If it wasn’t for the attention and love that Kathy gave Amanda, Joseph and her sisters may have never gotten a second chance at a better life.

“Shout out to my adopted family,” Joseph said. “They adopted three traumatized girls, and although they had one biological son, they didn’t have much experience. Now, I have a beautiful life with my adopted family.”

Amanda is proud of her flourishing life, and she has Kathy to thank.

As for Neves, she is now a fill-in driver and continues to help the ones that clearly need it.

"Throughout the years, for whatever reason, some kids just stand out. You see someone who needs something, you go get it for them," she said.

Neves was extremely touched to know that Joseph was looking for her, and the two women look forward to staying in touch moving forward.

Not all heroes wear capes.

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