Warning: this doesn’t begin as a happy, feel-good tale, but it ends well, so take heart and keep reading.
I once met a nine-year-old boy who, after being abandoned by his birth mother, lived with an adoptive mother who oftentimes beat him black and blue. She treated the younger foster children placed in the home somewhat better, but since he had been legally adopted, visits from Social Services on his behalf stopped.
The adoptive mother, though deeply disturbed, was clever enough to mislead both social workers and school officials. She locked the boy in a bedroom or sat him at a small school desk in the living room to write several hundred times, “I love you Mother. I will stop being a worthless boy.”
When the makeshift family went to a store, she often stripped this oldest child down to underwear and locked him in the van. Sometimes he ran away. I met the boy after just such an escape. The police had found a half-naked, badly bruised boy running in the street and the responding sergeant asked me, in my [then] role of police crisis interventionist, to calm him down and then help investigate.
After many interrogations, the county child abuse and neglect unit agreed to take emergency custody and placed the boy in a child adolescent treatment facility, as there were no available foster home placements. There, he was put into the equivalent of a cell and locked down at night, badly frightened. I bought him a radio with headsets to drown out the night sounds; it was his sole possession.
The system intended to place him next in a group home with young offenders — teenagers remanded into custody due to gang affiliations or arrests. Desperate for a better outcome, I turned to the Salvation Army to find a family who might be willing to foster such a boy. Three days later, I served as his legal advocate in court, where the adoptive mother’s rights were rescinded. As she walked out of court, I introduced another woman to the judge. This woman asked the court to consider a plan to allow her and her husband, a sheriff’s deputy, to assume custody of the boy. They had a boy the same age, and room for another. The woman who stood next to me in court at that moment worked part-time at the Salvation Army.
Subsequently the child moved to the suburbs with a brother and a dog and a real mother and father. He went to school and was more like, than different from, the other children in his class. For the first time in his life, there were no horrifying secrets to keep. It wasn’t all smooth; there was food-hording, bonding issues, etc. But the family’s true heart overcame those obstacles and they legally adopted him.
This true story reminds us of how area nonprofits can, and often do, transform lives. Companies are needed to underwrite a couple hours a month for employees to volunteer, or to encourage “Days of Caring” company-wide programs. 2015 could be the year your organization helps create a miracle in the community — an outcome worth celebrating with customers as well as employees. It’s a win-win goal and a great way to start 2015.