It was like a scene out of a frightening movie.* Seven year-old Carmen and her older sister Sherry cowered in their bedroom while their mother — in an alcohol-fueled rage — began cutting down the door. The police arrived just in time to rescue the girls. With no suitable relatives or children’s shelter in the area, the girls were put in the care of the Department of Social Services and the nighttime social worker contacted The Relatives. Over an hour away, the girls did not arrive at The Relatives until the wee hours of the night. They were immediately given something to eat before our staff therapist showed them their room upstairs and got blankets and pillows so they could go to sleep.
Carmen and Sherry quickly adjusted to their stay at The Relatives. The loving and attentive atmosphere was a welcome change and the girls quickly adopted the staff and other residents at The Relatives as their home away from home. In fact, they did not understand why they had to leave when DSS found a foster family. Carmen thought The Relatives was the “new family” the social worker had been referring to. In a sense they were, but only for a short time. Staff members helped restor order in the girls’ disordered lives and to soften the harmful effects of what they had been through.
The Relatives helped open the door to a better tomorrow and were grateful for the chance to be there for Carmen and Sherry. And as these young girls now settle into a new chapter of their lives with a loving foster family who can help them heal, the staff at The Relatives stand ready again for the phone to ring or for the knock at the door that wil bring another child who is looking for safety, stability, and people who care.
Early last fall, shortly after school started, the Springs family was evicted from their apartment. Ms. Springs lost her job and was unable to pay the rent. She sought shelter at a local shelter for women; however, her teenage son, Khalil, was not allowed to stay with her. The social worker at the shelter recommended The Relatives. Khalil was no stranger to The Relatives he had two prior stays earlier in the year, both related to homelessness. Little did Khalil know The Relatives would become his “home” for the next four months. Then things finally came together. First, Ms. Springs found a job. Then with a lot of help and prodding by the staff at The Relatives the family received approval and funding for an apartment
Although The Relatives was never more than a temporary home, the impact on Khalil will last a life time. It was difficult being homeless and separated from his mother, but the staff at The Relatives did the best they could to fill the void. The safety offered at The Relatives helped Khalil in a number of ways. He grades vastly improved at school and he was accepted to attend Myers Park High School. Khalil’s dream is to attend University of Southern California for college. Khalil developed a number of friendships with the staff. They were always available to talk to him when he had problems or was just feeling down. Khalil also developed wonderful relationship with the volunteers as well. The relationships he formed with volunteers resulted what he described as his “best Christmas ever” as well as a mentorship with a volunteer who works in Khalil’s field of interest. The volunteers also helped to provide items for his move with his mom.
Last Wednesday it was finally time for Khalil to say good-bye. With the van stuffed to roof with all that Khalil accumulated while at The Relatives, Ms. Springs commented, “When Khalil got here; all he had was a book bag. Now look at all this stuff!” Truth be told, Khalil left with a lot more than “stuff.” At the very least he left with a special place in his heart for people who were there for him when he needed them most.
Sylvia was 15 yrs. old when she came to The Relatives. She had been in a physical altercation with her mother. They had been arguing over caring for Sylvia’s grandmother who lived in the home. The grandmother suffered from a debilitating illness and required constant care. In talking to Sylvia and her mother it was revealed that this was not their first physical altercation. It was also apparent that both were still very angry. While Sylvia stayed at The Relatives staff encouraged her to talk to her mother, but Sylvia refused. A family conference had previously been set at the halfway point in the client’s expected stay. This conference got off to a rocky start. It took some time, but staff was able to facilitate reconciliation. There was such a dramatic turn of events that the client went home without completing her planned stay at The Relatives. Staff has continued to follow-up with the family since the client’s discharge. While things are not perfect in the home they are reported to be far better than before. In fact there reportedly have been no further physical altercations. The Relatives-keeping children safe and families together.
Taylor and her mother had been living with a friend. Unfortunately Taylor’s mother had a substance abuse problem that began to wear on the friend. Finally, the friend had enough and asked Taylor and her mother to leave. Taylor was troubled by her mother’s substance abuse problem, choice of men and their homeless state. They had no family in the Charlotte are with which to stay. Also having been in Charlotte only a short time they had few friends. Taylor’s mother went to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army agreed to let her stay, but referred Taylor to The Relatives. Taylor stayed at The Relatives off and on for 4 months. During that time the staff at The Relatives helped Taylor’s mother find a rehabilitation program for substance abusers. The Relatives was also able to provide Taylor with a degree of stability and consistency. In addition, the staff at The Relatives provided Taylor with the guidance and encouragement that had been lacking from her mother. Today, Taylor’s mother is out of rehab and she and Taylor have a place of their own. Taylor’s academic performance and behavior at school have both improved. With a stable placed to live, Taylor has also been able to procure a job at a local restaurant. Taylor gives credit to the staff at The Relatives for changing her life.
Aaron knew from an early age that he was different from other boys. Not in any outward way, it was more his interests and his interactions with his peers. As he entered puberty he felt himself increasingly drawn toward other boys and had little interest in girls. Aaron ultimately came to the conclusion that he was “gay.” He was uncomfortable with his new found sexuality. He lived in a rural community in a family with very conservative values. As such, Aaron feared the ramifications of “coming out.” Last November, at the age of fifteen, Aaron could stand it no longer. He shared his sexual orientation with friends and family. His parents, in particular, struggled with Aaron’s orientation. There was an almost constant tension in the home that often flared into heated arguments. One day in April of this year, Aaron’s mother came home and found Aaron with another boy. A vicious argument ensued during which Aaron grabbed a knife and threatened to kill his family and himself. The threat was real enough to land Aaron in the hospital. When the time came for his discharge, his mother refused to let him come home. In fact she was vigorously pursuing a group home placement. Thus, Aaron came to stay at The Relatives.
At The Relatives Aaron found the acceptance he longed for at home. Aaron was both surprised and pleased to find that the staff did not judge him in any way. They simply accepted him for who he was. As a result he was able to open up and discuss the many things he had been struggling with since “coming out.” The staff at The Relatives also connected him to an organization that works specifically with gay, lesbian, transgendered and questioning youth. While at The Relatives, Aaron was visited frequently by his aunt who lives nearby. Aaron shared his experiences at The Relatives with her. She was very impressed both by how readily Aaron had been accepted and by the obvious difference it had made in him. He was happier than he had been in months. After Aaron left The Relatives to go to a group home, his aunt made a sizeable donation to express her appreciation and support. Aaron is doing well in the group home and is looking forward to returning home.
*In order to protect the privacy of our clients, some names and identifying information have been changed.