Before and After
Kim Guarda is the Residential Youth Coordinator at the Children’s Center. Her primary responsibility as a case worker is to keep everyone connected and informed—as she calls it, “keeping everyone on the same page.” Kim keeps parents, guardians, court counselors, teachers and others up to date on the status of youth who in the residential program. In addition to her role as a connector, Kim also works to get program participants started in the right direction, including school placement and employment.
Kim shared the story of a young woman named Pam who arrived at the Children’s Center for residential care because her family had abandoned her. Pam’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Here is Pam’s story as shared by Kim:
Pam came to the Children’s Center when she was 16. She arrived along with one of her siblings, a brother, who had been living with their parents and three additional siblings in a hotel room for some time. Pam’s family resolved disputes by fighting. For Pam, fighting was the only way she knew to resolve any situation. Fighting was a normal part of life for her. We worked with Pam very closely to teach her ways of dealing with issues other than fighting. It took a while but eventually started working.
Before Pam arrived at the Children’s Center, she had lived a largely insulated life. Her parents had disowned her for the most part. At 16, she had never been to school, never had medical or dental care and never had become friends with anyone. While Pam lived at the Children’s Center, we taught her basic life skills—how to care for her personal hygiene, how to do laundry, and, above all, how to make friends.
Slowly but surely, Pam made progress at the Children’s Center. We helped her enroll at Surry Central High School and guided her to the right classes and on testing procedures. Eventually Pam moved out of the Children’s Center, but she stayed in touch from time to time. Just before she turned 18, Pam came back to the Children’s Center.
Pam told us that she had never had a birthday party before—not even a birthday cake. We pulled a group of her friends together and celebrated her 18th birthday at a local bowling center complete with a birthday cake. Pam told us afterwards that her birthday celebration was the best day of her life.
She later sent us a thank you note that included a picture Pam had drawn to illustrate her life “before” and “after” her stay at the Children’s Center. The “before” part of the picture was of a jail cell, and the “after” part was a fairytale castle. Pam, who is still 18, is continuing school and seeking a job. It’s a very slow process, but she also is working to rebuild relationships with at least some of her siblings and her parents.