Children really are pretty amazing humans. They are funny, resilient and have such a sense of wonder and authenticity about them. They are quick to anger and to forgive, affectionate, trusting, and full of awe at everything new.
Would that the biggest worries any child would face would be how many games they can squeeze in before bedtime or whether or not to have chocolate sauce on their ice cream. Sadly, some kids face far more serious worries than that.
Take Sam (not his real name). Sam’s mom loved him. She was also addicted to crack cocaine. Sam’s dad was not at home. So by the time Sam was four years old, he had run drugs for his mom, seen his mom take drugs, and been neglected and abused. He was placed in foster care. Not surprisingly, Sam had difficulties. He missed his mom, because at four, he didn’t realize she wasn’t “fit.” He loved her. So he was confused and angry and began to act out.
By the time Sam was nine years old, he’d been in four different foster homes. He’d begun having problems at school, too. By the time he was 10, he was arrested for bringing a knife to school. Sam was in and out of detention and the court system four times before he was 14. It was then the court ordered him to David L. Brown Youth Center.
There’s another boy, Tom (again, not his real name). Tom doesn’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t hungry. His mother was poor and had six children to feed. Most of the money she got went to alcohol for herself, which Tom began to drink, too, when he was about nine years old. Tom was very close to one of his brothers, and when Children’s Services took the children from their unsafe home, he was separated from all his siblings except his brother. After a few foster placements, one family adopted his brother. They didn’t adopt Tom.
Tom began to act out in school and in his foster placement. He missed his family and he didn’t understand what he had done wrong. He had serious anger management problems, according to his tests. All he knew is that he kept getting in trouble and that no one wanted him.
At 15, Tom was in his sixth foster placement, was disrespectful to his foster parents and teachers, and tried to jack a car and take a joy ride. The courts sent him to David L. Brown.
This is not the kind of childhood I would wish for anybody. But Tom and Sam are learning to take care of themselves, to make good choices in life, to plan for a job and a place in society, and to cope with feelings of anger, abandonment and loss. The David L. Brown Youth Center has people who teach them all these skills, and more.
I feel very lucky that we have such a facility in our midst for the young men who have had lives such as these two boys. They deserve it.