Penny and I were in the final stretch of the adoption process for our son and daughter. The whole family was excited and holding our breath not wanting anything to interfere because this was a culmination of twelve years of waiting, money spent, and our attorneys and a judge all working to make this happen.
Then just days before the last court date to make it final, Penny received a desperate phone call, a youth pastor from a town two hours away. It went something like this “Penny I have a thirteen year old that I have been working with. His mother is at the end of her rope and has no hope for Kaleb but to turn him over to the state and give up her parental rights. She has tried everything she could do, but nothing has been of any help. His mother loves him, but he is out of control, she is afraid of him and for his life. She has tried what the counselors have suggested and placed him in various facility’s, multiple times all the while adding more and more medications to the mix. His disrespect and uncontrollable behavior, and at 13 he slips out of the house and is gone for days at a time. You are his mother’s last hope of saving him from the unthinkable, will you take him?”
We had determined not to take in any new children until we had a chance to finish the adoption and take a little time for our immediate family, therefore, we would have asked the parent to fill out an application form and set up a time later for an interview. But something about the urgency in that phone call and the desperation of the mother, the honesty and plea from a caring pastor and a prompting from the Holy Spirit, Penny said yes she would interview the mother and forwarded the necessary intake forms.
Two days before court the pastor, Amber arrives with Kaleb’s mother, bringing his belongings to begin the program the following day when the facility would transport him. We had not met him yet but were totally committed to his future and to his family. Early the next morning we received this young boy, his records and medications into Jacob’s House with the understanding that our policy includes a 30 trial period to see if we thought he would flourish in this environment.
Adoption day we loaded Kaleb up with all the other kids, and Mark an adult volunteer, arriving at the courthouse with one thing on our mind “Lord give us favor today in court.” Mark was going to wait with the kids in the lobby while we were in court with the two being adopted, but the bailiff escorted us all into the court room including Kaleb with his shoulder length hair and tiger hat, we must have been a sight. The adoption sailed through without a hitch, and when it was all over someone said “wait, we need pictures”. We all gathered together near the judge who shook my hand and said, “you all are doing a great job with these children” as he looked out at our special audience.
Jeremiah and Haley had put in a special request a year earlier, to celebrate their adoption at Cheddars restaurant. The kids had fun ordering their favorite dish, they have been taught to order a balanced meal they discussed substitutions and combinations with their mom who agreed they did a fine job. Kaleb studied the menu too, ordering like the others. We had a great server who was aware of this celebration and he bantered with the kids as he set each plate in front of us. I said grace and thanked God for his goodness and blessing on this amazing day and then everyone promptly dug in. About ten minutes into the meal Kaleb asked Penny, How did I do? (He had ordered a double bacon cheese burger, with cheesy fries on the side) Penny smiled and said, “well that is a little too much fat for me honey, but I will explain about choices another day. “ Kaleb looked at her and asked “Will it kill me?” She laughed and said “not today, but eating like that could kill you in time.” We all enjoyed our time eating and talking about the day, and what it meant to Jeremiah and Haley and to Penny and me. About half way through the meal, Kaleb said “Ms. Penny this is the best meal I have ever had in my life”. Penny turned her head to look at me and we both had tears in our eyes, this is what we were born for, making a difference in the life of a child, and giving hope to the family. It is not always quick, and not always easy, but it always rewarding when you see the hope and joy return to a family and peace and normal behavior to the troubled child.
In Kaleb’s own words, "When I first came to Jacob’s House I was heavily sedated, I was basically a zombie so we made a plan to wean me off them. On my second day they took me to a really good restaurant, and I told Penny this is the best food I ever had. She almost started crying, right then and there I knew I was family. It became my goal to become a pro skateboarder. When I first came to Jacob’s House I didn’t know any tricks, I do now, and I have been sponsored too and that is hard to do. It is like living at home, it really is fun. I am really thankful for Penny, because if it wasn’t for her God only knows where I would be. No matter what, Penny still thinks of me as her child. I know if I ever need a place to go I can always come back here, I will always love Penny."
Kaleb has been here over a year now and is part of the big Jacob’s House family. His first two weeks were difficult and one evening Penny called him in the office and explained his behavior was over the top and he was not going to make the 30 trial period. He ran out the door and took a long walk. Our staff really loved him so much and he was close to Jeremiah so everyone had been pulling for him. About an hour later he came back in the office and his face still had tear stains. “Ms. Penny if I step up my game in my attitude and do my chores and listen will you give me another chance?” Penny described what stepping up would be and he said he knew he could do it. We agreed and he has done much better, he is off of all medications, he is able to control his temper, and responds well when asked to do something. He is doing better in school, shares with his part of the daily chores. He is no longer one to be afraid of, but a joy to be around. His passion is skateboarding, and he is becoming quite good at it. He is still working his program and he is progressing, he has a bright future ahead of him. Several months later Penny asked him if he would share his story with another teen we were interviewing. He agreed to and at the end of his talk he added “this is the best place I have ever lived.”
Keep up the good work Kaleb.