Help write a happy endingWritten by Victoria Berryhill
The support of our community has enabled Austin Children’s Shelter to keep siblings together, write new chapters, and work toward a happy ending for some of our most vulnerable children.
Lucas, Emma, and Jack’s 17 year-old mother knew she loved her children more than anything in the world. She also knew that her violent and chaotic past — abused by her mother and boyfriend, and having been raised in and out of the foster system — left her ill-equipped to be the parent her precious children deserved. She knew she had to make the toughest decision any mother can make: she entrusted the Foster & Adopt program of Austin Children’s Shelter to find a loving home where her three children could stay together.
Young children, who are already victims of abuse and neglect, are often separated from their siblings in the urgency of removing them to a safe home. As they are losing everything familiar, they often also lose touch with their own siblings.
Until they could be moved together, the children stayed in one of our emergency shelter cottages – together. Then, the day came when they could move as a family to live with one of our carefully screened foster families.
Our foster parents and cottage staff are trained to support children who have seen, heard, and experienced horrific events — a “trauma-informed” approach. This training prepares our caregivers for situations such as diffusing the terror of a young boy who has had to take his little brother and sister to hide in the closet when daddy comes around.
Parenting is difficult and every once in a while, all parents – even foster parents – need a night off; but finding a babysitter who is trained in a trauma-informed approach can be a challenge. So when their foster family needed a break, Lucas, Emma, and Jack were able to come stay at Austin Children’s Shelter’s Respite Program in a familiar environment with people they knew and trusted – a happy turn of events in their story.
Together, Austin Children’s Shelter and their foster parents helped these children – and so many more like them – learn that a mommy and daddy can be loving and caring, that not all adults have to be mistrusted, and that home can be a safe, non-threatening place.
Lucas, Emma, and Jack’s story is far from over… but for now, they are together with a loving foster family in a nurturing and safe home. We hope the next chapter in their story will see them permanently adopted by one of our foster families who will be there throughout their life, and that the final chapters will include high school proms and college graduations, celebrations of new jobs and weddings, and, perhaps someday, the births of their own children.
These are lofty dreams for the futures of children who have been caught in a cycle of violence and abuse. How do we help them achieve these goals? We partner together – with you. In the last year, the support of our community has helped us change the story of childhood for Lucas, Emma, and Jack – and for so many others with stories so similar.
In the last year alone, we provided more than 13,500 days of care for 178 children and young people, 1,500 medical appointments, 550 hours of therapy and psychiatric sessions, and 107,413 meals! And in 2016, we plan to do even more.
With renovations of our cottages currently underway, our residential capacity will soon increase by as much as 30%!
That means 30% more children who can be sheltered, and for whom we can help write a happy ending. That also means 30% more of everything that goes into caring for our children: medical appointments, therapy, meals, clothes, and activities. Now, more than ever, we need your partnership. Each gift helps ensure a bright future for every single child who enters our doors.
We at ACS, as well as the children we serve, are thankful for your gracious generosity. Please make your gift today – and help us be here for the growing number of children who need a safe and caring place to live. Each gift makes a difference.
P.S. Thanks to the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, all gifts will be matched dollar for dollar up to $100,000!