Sunday, February 11, 2018

An Intensely Personal Story about Our Family

Back in 2004, we had 10 children.   Two of our sons were becoming very difficult to handle and we encountered the worst nightmare of our lives to this point:  We were unable to keep them and the rest of the children safe in our own home.   It was a horrible feeling.  We did not adopt these guys to put them back
into the system.  But at that point in time that was our only choice.   In order to get them help, we had to give volunteer custody to our county.

It would take a whole book to tell you about the journey of having our children in the system.   We could talk about how embarrassing it was to have to attend an admit/deny hearing, or how humiliating it was to watch a video about child abuse, or the absolute horror of a just-out-of-college social worker suggesting she could find a home for our 17 year old that "really loved him."  Just writing those words makes my stomach churn.

The outcomes for these boys has not been good.  .  While manipulating everyone they came into contact with, they became "institutionalized" going back and forth from one group home to another.   Our relationship deteriorated and they have both spent a large percentage of time in jail or prison as adults.   One of them blames us for everything.

I cannot guarantee that the outcomes would have been different had there been a place for us to go where we could place our child without count involvement.  But I do know that our lives would have been much less stressful, humiliating, and difficult.   And had all of the people and placements they had been focusing on family preservation, we might have a better relationship with them today.

Moving 1000 miles away from most of our family and friends to a place where we didn't know anyone would only have happened if it was something big.  I am extremely passionate about what we do because  Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Homes is the place we needed in 2004.  

Parents can bring their children here (about 60% of the kids are adopted) and without court involvement place them in a safe place.  There are scholarships available for those who can't afford our services.  We do not take state funds, so the government doesn't dictate what we do.  We focus on family preservation, using TBRI principles, so that relationships can remain intact.

You may know that I have been part of over 600 adoptions in my life -- either as a social worker, a branch director, or as an Adopt America matching specialist.   Many of these children have had challenging behaviors.   It is now my primary mission to find a compassionate and gentle solution to out-of-home care for these kids and kids like them.

This is the first time I am mentioning this online, but we have big plans for the future at PHFS -- plans to develop a model that can be replicated nationally.   We are developing an alternative to traditional state based foster care.   We are working hard at preserving families.   We are passionately invested in what we do.

The fundraiser you may have heard about really isn't about my weight loss (though I am losing weight) or me strengthening my back (which is also happening).  It's about real kids and real families like ours having choices that are humane, respectful, and family-centered.

Maybe you couldn't care less about how much I weigh, and that's perfectly fine.   But if this post resonates with you, I hope that you will make a donation to this campaign to help families like ours... or families like yours ... and the children they love.

If you can't donate at this time, but would like to be part of a think tank about these issues, please comment on this blog entry and let's connect on Facebook.  I'd love to begin a lengthy discussion amongst  of out-of-the-box thinkers about how to best meet the needs of children and families

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