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As most children do, I grew up following the footsteps of my mother. Although I have been advised by my case manager that my mother is not healthy for me, I’ve always followed her advice, even when it has negatively impacted my life. I allowed her opinions over what I am doing in my life to cast doubt on my choices. However, after taking a housing option that I was offered on September 20, 2017, I learned that always listening to my mother's advice is not always the best choice. Despite what many people say about mothers always knowing best, not all families have the same situation. It has been difficult to consciously go against my mother's feelings and opinions on my life, but I am inspired to continue to make choices that I think are best for me.
“It has been difficult to consciously go against my mother's feelings and opinions on my life."
A screeching sound has been blaring in my ears for the past few hours, keeping me awake. At first I thought that it was a vacuum cleaner, but nobody would vacuum the floor for this long. It's after eleven at night but I'm lying awake. It is dark but there is plenty of light coming into the window from cars and buildings outside. Along with the screeching noise, I can hear the constant sound of cars driving in the rain on the nearby highway. I can hear the water splashing under the tires, as the cars speed under the dim, yellow street lights. It always makes me feel calm to be able to hear the sound of cars passing while falling asleep. My body feels relaxed, a feeling that is difficult to redeem in myself. I know that I made the right choice; I couldn't be happier to be here.
That September I got to move to the Somerville Village Program, run by The Home for Little Wanderers. It is a program for women ages 18 – 24 who are at risk for homelessness. I was originally offered the housing opportunity in August, but I did not move in from uncertainty about the program. Luckily, the bed was still available to me, so I was able to move in September. The program accepts young adults who are in school and working to achieve their future career goals. I decided to come here because I want support with housing so that I can stay in school, save for my future, and manage my job. They are allowing me to pay $250 per month for “rent.” They save that money for me so that I can start my life when I graduate.
Before I made the decision to make my own choices, I called my mom for her advice on if I should move to The Home for Little Wanderers or not. She hung up on me three times in ten minutes. Her message was clear, “No! I thought you found housing already? Are you homeless again?”
I still fail to understand my mother's logic on why she wanted me to struggle financially and be unsuccessful. She doesn’t support me, so I don't understand why she felt so strongly about me moving to Somerville. She is the one who kicked me out with no warning, landing me in a shelter every time I went to her house. She is the one who was not there for me when I called her hysterically crying after I was mugged — she blamed me for “going in a bad area,” then hung up on me. It sounds absurd why I would continue to listen to my mother’s advice on where to live, but she is my mother. She is the parent who used to wipe my tears and cuddle with me when I needed it. She was the parent who was always there for me until her heroin use replaced me. It is hard to stop listening to someone that meant so much to me, despite how much she put me through. No matter what she does, I can never stop loving her. My case manager told me that she is illogical and bad for me, but it is always a struggle to separate myself and make my own choices.
Looking back, I wish that I had not listened to my mother’s advice on moving to East Boston. I wish I had moved to The Home For Little Wanderers sooner. I would have saved myself a lot of stress. Looking back on the past year, I wish I had always done what would have supported my health and wellbeing. My mom and I have a difficult relationship and I wish I would have removed myself before I had no self esteem. Before I moved to The Home For Little Wanderers, I listened to my mother and got let down by her lies and false hope, again and again. In the end, I could not be happier to make the choice to live at The Home For Little Wanderers because living at the program will best help me to reach all of my goals and be a successful adult. I cannot understand why my mother does not want what is best for me, but it is up to me to form my own opinions and decisions regarding my life from now on. After going against my mother's advice and moving somewhere scary and unadvised by my mother, I am inspired to do what is best for me, regardless of what my mom thinks of my choices.
It is my pleasure to write to you for the first time as President and CEO of The Home for Little Wanderers. I took over leadership of our organization on January 3, after serving as The Home’s Vice President of Program Operations having been with the organization for seven years. I believe whole-heartedly in The Home’s mission to strengthen children and their families. Our job is to give every child the opportunity to live a full and rewarding life.
April is National Childhood Abuse Prevention month. While abuse unfortunately does happen to children, it pales in comparison to the rates of neglect. In 2016, 32,093 children were maltreated in Massachusetts and of those 11% suffered physical and/or sexual abuse. Of those same children, 95% experienced neglect.*
The Home is working to end abuse and neglect on many different fronts. We are a safe haven for children when they are removed from their families through our foster care program, group homes, and residential treatment centers. Our community-based programs aim to prevent it all together. Last year, we launched our Center for Early Childhood which works with children, their caregivers and educators to help build strong social-emotional foundations. The group of programs in The Center are growing and serving more families every day. I am also pleased to announce, we are looking to change how we work with the many children we serve who have an addicted parent. The Home has always been innovative in its work and we now believe, at the height of the opioid epidemic, it is important for us to be treating the whole family not just the child.
Under my leadership, I will continue to ensure The Home is flexible and responsive to the needs of children. Our goal to strengthen children and families is always at the forefront of every decision.
Lastly, and with a heavy heart, we say goodbye to Gretchen Hall, Program Manager of our Early Childhood Training Institute. Gretchen passed away in March. She dedicated her life to serving children. We here at The Home were blessed to have had her as a colleague.
The Home is working to improve the field of child welfare through its extensive internship program. With many of the country’s premier academic institutions located in Massachusetts, The Home is able to access some of the best minds. Each year, approximately 100 students, graduate and undergraduate, come to The Home to hone their skills and to serve those in need.
These students come from many disciplines — from psychology and counseling to social work and public policy — and serve in many different professional capacities. Many interns take on clinical roles and directly help families. Some will practice in administrative and research-oriented positions to support the efforts of The Home’s clinical staff. Regardless of how they serve, the impact of the interns cannot be overstated.
Perhaps Stuart Figueroa, an intern from Boston College's Graduate School of Social Work, said it best, “Being at The Home this year has been an incredible experience. I’ve been able to apply the skills I’ve learned in my program, and make a meaningful difference in lives of youth. Because of my experience at The Home, I feel ready and able to help improve the lives of children and families.”
Goals for Good
Our new friends at RBC Capital Markets took to the ice at Boston’s iconic TD Bank Garden to fundraise for local non-profits! RBC Capital Markets hosted a Family Skate Night and a Dream Game on March 5th. Each team in the Dream Game chose a charity to receive either $15,000 or $10,000. The Home was lucky enough to be picked by the winning team and received a whopping $15,000 donation! The nationwide organization SCORE, which provides mentors and workshops to small business owners, was still a winner receiving a $10,000 donation. We look forward to growing our relationship with RBC Capital Markets and seeing their FUNdraising ideas.
It is challenging for any family to support their child with mental and behavioral health needs, but it can be even more difficult for immigrant families.
The Home’s Community Service Agency, Park Street works with many Vietnamese families to help them connect with community supports and navigate the mental health system for their children. To help them build long term supports, our CSA Park Street began a support group for our Vietnamese parents!
The group has really begun to build bonds with one another and even attended a special Lunar New Year celebration which was specifically tailored for children with disabilities. Lunar New Year celebrations are often loud and crowded which can trigger children who are struggling with sensory issues and anxiety. This group was still able to celebrate while being sensitive to their children's needs. “Our goal is to connect families to long-term more stable supports,” explained Kathleen Irving, the Program Director for CSA Park Street.
After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, families fled the destroyed island looking for safety and stability. More than 600 families flew to Massachusetts with little more than the clothes on their backs. Cold and disoriented, their first stop for help was the statewide Family Resource Center network. Over seven months, Boston-Suffolk County FRC at The Home for Little Wanderers has helped more than 300 families access their FEMA benefits, find temporary housing in hotels, enroll their children in schools, and provide warm clothes. The Home will continue to work in partnership with the state as families decide when it is safe to return to the island or if they stay and raise their families in Massachusetts.