A FAMILY REUNIFICATION STORY
Shavonda & Roc share their family’s journey to reunification with help from the Children’s Village Residential Program; along with comments from Jill & Kelvin Thompson, Human Services Professionals at Christian City for more than three decades.
We met at Marietta High School in 10th grade.
I was a teen parent in high school, but he was always there for us, since day one.
We started struggling about three or four years ago,
and we did a lot of shuffling around back-and-forth from Union City to Rome to Cedartown to Douglasville, Georgia, just moving around and getting a temporary roof here and there. The idea of dropping your kids off somewhere while you go off and try to get started was a little much for me. I couldn’t come to terms with the idea, but Shavonda told me that it really wasn’t worth the way we were struggling. She took the big step by coming to Christian City and asking for help.
I learned that not everybody is going to help when you need help. Not everybody is going to be there like you would think. I was cornered at that time, so I decided after that last weekend I spent with my kids in a hotel room that I would come and visit Christian City and at least just see the place. I didn’t have any more money. They needed food.
I just wanted to make sure that whatever I could provide they would have. Long story short…..we came to Christian City and I was scared and devastated. I have to admit that! I came to Christian City looking for any reason to say “No, I can’t leave my kids there; no, I can’t do this; and no, this is not the right thing.” But, when I got here, it was gorgeous and beautiful. Kids were outside playing everywhere.
I got to meet with the social worker, Kelvin, and talk to him and cry to him like a big baby, and I felt terrible. I felt like I was giving my kids away. I felt horrible. I don’t know if it was Jill, but somebody came in the room and they just comforted me, handed me tissues and water, and told me “You know, we’re not trying to take your kids from you. We’re simply trying to be your hands and feet until you can get back on your feet.” That helped me feel so much better. I don’t know what it was about that statement, but that is really what made me stop and realize “I can do this.”
Kelvin (Human Services Professional – Children’s Village):
When Shavonda approached us about placing her children here, it was an emotional struggle for her. I remember that she would have emotional ups and downs and she would walk away at times feeling confident that this was the right decision and then second-guess herself, because she’s a mother and she doesn’t want to leave her children unattended someplace where she’s not present herself.
In the struggles that I experienced with Shavonda, there were times when I could listen to her and talk to her about those emotional struggles, and then offer a spiritual solution. I think that was very helpful at the time. It seemed to bring a lot of relief to her whenever we would sit down and talk and then also pray, oftentimes over the telephone, just to help her know she was on the right track and making the right decision and then she was re-motivated again.
One of the things that we try to hold onto at the Children’s Village is a wholistic approach to what children need. We are not just a place to house the children and provide for the physical needs, but also the spiritual needs, the emotional needs, the social needs, and the vocational needs. We look at all of it and try to address everything that’s needed for the child while they are here.
Jill (Human Services Professional – Children’s Village):
Family is one of the core parts of our program. We serve families and we want to give the children placed with us a family to be in, which is the house parent mom and dad family figure. They run their home much as any other family would. Kids come home from school. They have dinner time. They might play basketball. They have a bedtime. Meal times are in the dining room and everybody’s in one place sharing that meal together.
The model for Christian City is “it takes a village,” and it does. It’s not just Kelvin and me. It’s not just the birth mom or the house parents. It’s not just the kids. It really takes that team of people working together to bring the family together to bring them home. That’s our goal.
We work extensively with these families to get them back together again and to give them the services and resources that they need in order to come back together again in a healthier manner.
Mom was able to put her children’s needs first. Even though she wanted the kids to be home, she was able to say, “Let’s wait till school is out and then let me come and get them.” So we planned for that. The kids were aware of that plan, and mom worked toward that plan, and it worked out really well. We worked toward increasing visitations so the kids could become acclimated to their new home environment as well as ours. So it worked out really well.
When I called Christian City, I actually got genuine, honest help. I could show people I was serious. I wanted to take this opportunity to get on my feet, get my kids, and get my home in order. I was serious and they took me seriously. I really appreciated that. I’m going to school to get my degree, my bachelor’s degree. it’s a dream come true. A year ago, I was living in my car. I would have never guessed I would be at this point today. That’s amazing.
Shavonda was always invested in coming to the care plan meetings. Sometimes parents are not able to make it to the meetings for different reasons. She made it a point to be at the meetings so we could discuss the goals of her children while they were here. I just appreciated her always being there for her kids. They might’ve been with us, but she was always there for them.
They made sure the kids were learning and developing. When my son got here, he would barely talk, and he had issues with reading. And math he didn’t understand all together. He’s at a point now where he’s better with communicating; his reading is improving; and he even understands math. He hasn’t caught up entirely, but he’s made significant progress, which I can honestly say was because of Christian City. They were amazing.
it was very important to Shavonda to supply the needs she could for her children. She didn’t leave it all up to us. From the beginning, she was self-motivated and really invested in her children and in wanting to get them back home. We saw that by her attending school. She went back to school to get a degree. She established an apartment for them, so that they had a place to go when they started going home every weekend. Each child had a room. She fixed their rooms up and took pictures. It was a really fun process to have them make that return in the last few months.
I’m happy to have my family back.