1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
Ok – get ready for a long post. I want to preface this post with this statement: If you are going to be a nay-sayer, please feel free to read this post and even form your own opinion, but if your opinion is not 100% supportive, please don’t share it! Please know that what I am about to share with you has been thought through, prayed about, and thought through again. Many questions have been asked by us and by others, we have sought out answers, and we have a peace that I have never felt before. At this moment in our lives we choose to only surround ourselves with people who are willing to be a support system to us, who believe in what we are doing, and who have only positive things to say.
So I know you are all ready to hear our big news! We are taking long-term temporary custody of a 14 year old young man. Yes, that’s right, a 14 year old! Am I scared to death? You better believe it! But here is the bottom line…this is a really great kid in a really bad situation, and this may be his last chance in life. Hubs and I have the financial means, the space in our home, and the love and stability to provide this child and we just can’t let our fear stop us from possibly changing his life forever. We have to have courage to move forward with this!
1 Peter 3:13-14
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
So how on Earth did this come about? Let me start from the beginning and catch you all up. It has all been really fast so there is a LOT to share. I am going to leave out some details, because they are dealing with a minor, and frankly they just aren’t your business :)…but please understand the Hubs and I have those details, so we are very well informed.
August 2012 – Hubs comes home talking about this student. He is in a tough situation. The older brother is pressuring him to make some life choices that he is just not ready to make. Hubs lets him know that he supports him to make the difficult choices and that he is a smart, respectful, amazing young man.
School Year – Hubs continues to support/mentor the student, but he continues to struggle with attendance and grades.
Wednesday May 22nd – Student comes in before school to talk to Hubs. Hubs notices that the student seems remorseful, but continues to tell him that he is smart and amazing. Student has missed 10 days of school. He is currently on probation for a minor violation, and this causes him to be arrested at school and taken to RYDC. Hubs comes home extremely emotional and tells me the story.
Friday May 24th – A 6th grade teacher goes to Juvenile Court and asks for temporary custody of the student. She believes in him too – she has been supporting him for 2 years now. She is about to have a baby any day now! The judge gives the student the option to stay and serve time in RYDC, or go on house arrest with the teacher. He chooses to go with the teacher, which means weekdays with her, weekends with mom. Hubs and I have prayed for two days and are ready to jump into the situation. He emails 6th grade teacher (not knowing she is in court) and says we are willing to offer our home to the student. She got the email right as the judge was talking about “Where will he stay for the summer?” She sees this as a sign… Hubs takes teacher and student to lunch to have some “man-to-man” conversations with student and to offer our home to him for the summer.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Tuesday May 28th – Student is at school with 6th grade teacher, but spends the day with Hubs, making up some work and moving desks.
Wednesday May 29th – Student works with Hubs again at school. Hubs and student meet my grandmother and I for her birthday lunch. This is the first time I meet the student and I am in love after 30 minutes. He is all that Hubs has talked him up to be. Very respectful, so sweet, so confident, and now I am 110% bought in. Hubs takes student back to go home with other teacher, and student asks to come home with Hubs. He ends up spending the afternoon with us, and then asks to spend the night.
Thursday May 30th – Student stays with us all day, we have the teacher and her husband over for dinner, and he goes home with them.
Friday May 31st – Hubs and I both have multiple conversations with the Probation Officer (who has been involved in this family for a long time), the DFACS worker (who has been involved for 5+ years with this family), and the teacher who has custody right now. We also receive a visit from DFACS to make sure our home has adequate living conditions. The DFACS worker leaves and immediately calls the Probation Officer to tell her how impressed she is. She told us, “This never happens…someone like you guys wanting to take in a child….these kids usually just end up in group homes until they are legally adults.” This statement breaks my heart, but also reaffirms that weird “feeling” I have been having for the past few months…asking “where do I fit in in helping children – what do I need to do to make a difference?” We are getting more excited about our possibilities of helping this young man. We have prayed longer and harder and decided that we are in for the long haul. We will provide a home and stable family for as long as possible for this young man.
Saturday June 1st – Hubs and I pick up student and take him to see a movie with 2 friends. He is very happy to see us, and very appreciative. We see his living conditions and meet his mother and 9 other siblings. I am shocked. We like his choice of friends that join us. We enjoy the movie and return all the kiddos back home…a nice afternoon with some super sweet young men. At this point, I no longer see this young man as just a student…so I will begin referring to him as “M”.
Monday June 3rd – Hubs and I take lots of documents to the DFACS office (like pet vaccinations, verification of mortgage, verification of income, etc.) and go get drug tested. M is back with the teacher for the week, and we feel better knowing he is safe.
Thursday June 6th – 8:30 am – Hubs and I join the other teacher, the school counselor, the probation officer, and the DFACS worker in juvenile court. The goal is to convince the judge to make the best choice for M and hoping that he places him with us for at least the summer. The summer is the hardest time for a child like this because he just has way too much freedom. The probation officer has let us know that she is asking for placement until December in hopes that we can have custody over some school time. To help him get into a routine and make sure he is going to school consistently and keeping his grades up. The DFACS worker, the PO, and the state representative present their case. The judge asks M what he wants, and also asks his parents what they want. Of course they all want M to go home with them, but praise God the judge knows the whole family situation (he was the judge for the older brother as well). He was kind and understanding to M’s feelings, but was also firm about the decision. He wanted M to be clear that not every child comes to a court session like this with so much outside support. The state representative told the court that if we were not there, her recommendation would have been for M to go into foster care/DFACS custody. In the end, the judge placed M with us for 24 months. We all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that this young man finally has a real second chance in life. We all know he will be safe, and be able to see what real family support is all about.
This placement doesn’t mean that we are isolating him from his family and friends, but that we will be very selective about how he interacts with them. We explained this to M, and told him that there are just way too many temptations for him right now in that other environment. That we are here to protect him and help him grow as this changed new man. We plan to respect his family and his culture to the utmost degree. We will be taking a vacation next week to Florida and are excited to take M on an adventure he has never been on before. He was scared at first, but after we went and got him some swimsuits and flip-flops he is getting pretty excited.
This young man now has a chance in the world. Do we think it is going to be all roses all the time? No way! If I know anything about 14 year olds, I know that they are about the most difficult age of children in the world to deal with. Is he going to test us, challenge us, and drive us crazy sometimes? Of course he will. Is it all worth it to hopefully give this young man a chance at being all he has the potential to be? You better believe it! Hubs and I also know that we have the most amazing support system of family and friends that will help us no matter what. We know that we are not going into this alone.
So one talk about his chores and responsibilities, one pepperoni pizza dinner, and one clothes shopping trip down….and a much longer way to go….we are so excited about our adventure. We know that no matter how long this young man is in our life, and our family, that he will have a huge impact on our heart. And all we can pray is that we will have the same such impact on him.