When Branson first arrived at Carolina Family Connections (CFC), he was a shy and scrawny 14 year old, just a month away from turning 15. But birthdays had never been a special day for Branson.
Never had a cake. Never had a party. And never had a birthday present. When the staff at CFC learned that he had never celebrated a birthday, they wanted to make sure it was extra special. While the foster parents planned his birthday party, the staff at CFC stepped in to take it the extra mile. Knowing he enjoyed watching BMX bike events, they surprised him with a new BMX bike of his own on his birthday.
But because Branson had suffered from neglect and abuse for most of his young life, he had a hard time accepting the attention, much less a gift, feeling that he was unworthy of all that he was being given.
Often times victims of abuse or neglect, children in foster care can have a damaged sense of self worth and require special support and nurturing throughout their foster care journey. This month, we are shining our #SpotlightOnCLT on our local nonprofit partners that support both the vulnerable children in the foster care system as well as the individuals and families who take them into their care.
What exactly is foster care?
Foster care is a temporary placement provided by the State to provide children who, for various reasons, cannot live at-home with their parents. Children in foster care can be placed to live in residential settings, including relative and nonrelative homes, as well as group homes, and institutions.
Meet Charlie. He's only five, but he's already a three-year cancer survivor. Charlie was born with Down Syndrome and Transient myeloproliferative disorder, which transitioned into leukemia when he was 16 months old. When other babies were experiencing crucial brain, physical, and social development, Charlie was undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, long-term hospitalization, and isolation. As a result, Charlie experienced physical regression and delays in his motor skills.
Imagine being in a classroom where the instruction is given in a completely different language than the one you regularly speak. How frustrating would that be? How lonely? How difficult to stay on task? This is how it can feel for students with disabilities in a traditional classroom setting. Enter Allegro Foundation. Allegro developed a unique curriculum based on years of research that uses movement to reinforce learning concepts, allowing students to feel what is being learned and commit it to muscle memory.
“How do you connect with a mom when you’re feeling like, ‘I'm upset about having a baby like yours?’” she asked me. “Good point,” I thought to myself, and Shana Filkins continued to reflect on her first days after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis for her daughter in utero. Five years ago Shana knew only one family who had a child with Down syndrome, and for two long months she contemplated and rehearsed the call she knew she needed to make to them.
“It was devastating to me. I was 38 when I got pregnant. It was a dream come true - truly blissful because it took a long time to get pregnant and after receiving the Down syndrome diagnosis, I was ashamed and felt alone, ‘How could I be thinking this’ I thought to myself, ‘after wanting a baby for so long?’”
A special needs diagnosis is a life-changing moment that signals a long but rewarding road of challenges and victories alike. Brian Wulf knows this all too well. As the father of two sons who live with rare disorders and multiple disabilities, Brian has chosen to dedicate the rest of his life to sharing the deep things he has learned as a dad to special needs children, as well as encourage, empower and help others through life challenges that are often overwhelming and confusing. As the Executive Director of Empowering Hands for Life, he is able to do just that.
The story of Taylor Gamwell – love and acceptance for all God’s children – is the story of UMAR.
UMAR was founded in 1983 to serve adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities in 11 western N.C. counties. The Charlotte-based nonprofit served 325 adults in 2019 through its 22 group homes and other residential services, job training, three arts centers and more.
We have so much great news to share from our nonprofit partners about their amazing work. But, we'd love to hear from you. Let us know if you have stories you'd like to tell and we'll make you a guest blogger!!