Lily Smith* and Family

Jared, 9, Jamal, 10 and Jack, 11 were one of the rare boys that grew up with a Mom and Dad. The boys’ father was a fixture in the family and always with his boys. Where you saw the Dad, you saw his sons. Whether playing ball, helping the boys with their homework or spending Saturday afternoons at the park, the boys and their Dad had an inseparable bond. Tragically, four years ago, the Dad was killed in what is still an unsolved murder.

Children expect to lose a parent, but not at the young ages of 5, 6 and 7, and not through such circumstances. The impact this tragedy has had on the family is profound. Lily Smith, just 30 years old, is now a widow and single-handedly taking care of her three sons.

Lily is employed and earns $483 a week. Now as the sole breadwinner, she has no choice but to work. She also needs to provide for her sons and take care of the aftermath of her husband’s death.

The boys have had a difficult time dealing with the loss of their Dad. This has been particularly difficult for Jamal, the middle child. All three boys are in therapy – a needed but expensive service.

Lily needed a place for her boys to go afterschool and during the summer – a place where they would feel safe – a place where they would be well-cared for – a place where they could have fun. For months, the boys would come to the Achievement Centers and peek in the windows. Their home is right around the corner from the Center. The boys longed to be a part of the program, but there were no spots available for them. Finally, one spot opened up and the Center brought all three boys on board.

Lily has said that “The Center is my salvation. Finally my boys have a safe place to go to make friends, be with positive and caring adults, especially male role models and they are getting back to being boys again.”

The Center staff has seen a tremendous change in the boys since they became a part of the program. They are no longer sad all of the time. They are no longer quiet and reserved. They have begun to participate and know they always have someone to talk to.

Lucinda Adams* and Family

Dante, 11 and Derrick, 12, program participants at the Achievement Centers for Children & Families, are being raised by their grandmother. In 2008, Dante and Derrick were taken from their home by the Department of Children & Families because of parental abuse and neglect. The children were placed in foster care and their mother was incarcerated.

The children’s grandmother, Lucinda, was completely distraught by this and began working toward guardianship of the children. After months of exhaustively trying to gain primary custody, Lucinda succeeded.

Unfortunately, the children’s stay at their grandmother’s was short-lived. The children’s mother was released from jail and the court awarded her custody of the children. It was not long that the children were back in foster care and their mother was back in jail.

The children’s grandmother quickly took up her fight again to regain custody of her grandchildren. It took a full year, but the grandmother was successful. The children have moved back in with their grandmother and are happily with her today.

These circumstances have taken an emotional toll on the children. When they entered the afterschool program at the Achievement Center, the staff said they were “out of control.” Their behavior began to improve when they first moved in with their grandmother but quickly reverted back once they were again taken away and preplaced in foster care. Since their return to their grandmother’s, the children are becoming calm and comfortable with themselves. Being at the Center has been a grounding force for the entire family.

Today, Grandma Lucinda is fully responsible for the care of her grandchildren. Lucinda is a working in the education system and her income is $1,200 a month. While this may seem adequate, the expenses to cover the behavioral, medical and emotional care for the children are immense. Both children see a therapist. Both children have attention deficit disorder. Dante suffers with seizures and Derrick suffers with eye problems.

*Fictitious names are used to protect the identity of the family members.

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