Forever Family: Meet Damien
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - All of the kids and teens were obsessed with the games when filming at Urban Air last month. There was one game in particular that had the claw where you could try to win various toys. Damien played that game multiple times and won several different stuffed animals. He brought them all into the room we had lunch and showed off his prizes with glee. He continued to play throughout the day but was always quick to proudly show off the animals to any adult who walked in the room.
As he sat with the other children there for filming he listened while they shared their stories, their trauma, their fears. I saw Damien sit quietly, taking it all in. He never compared his story, he never tried to “one up” their comments or bring attention to himself in those moments. He was jovial and outspoken and feisty all day long, until it came to a moment when someone else revealed their vulnerability. In those moments you saw a shift in this young man. An incredible sense of empathy and compassion washed over him while he listened.
After lunch the other children and teens finished sharing about their group homes or desires to be home Damien continued to sit without speaking. It was the only time I saw him quiet all day. When one of the children voiced their nervousness about the interview and being on Forever Family Damien finally spoke up and shared about his younger siblings, “they did this, and they found a family, it might work for you.”
My heart softened for this boy as I saw his heart soften for others. After the conversation came to a close he went over to his pile of his prizes and handed them out, one by one to all the other children present. Damien kept one, a small blue dog, he said it was his favorite, “this one I love, this one I think I will keep.”
The afternoon was quickly coming to a close and sweet Damien asked if my five-year old son if he wanted to come jump with him. My son was ecstatic and overjoyed he was invited to play with the big kids. Within 10 minutes my son fell, his leg twisting and his little voice whimpering out in pain. As I carried my son to the room to have the staff look at his leg I heard Damien speaking while I carried my son. I couldn’t hear what he said at first, consumed with my own nerves. Once the moment settled, I saw Damien patting my sons back saying over and over again, “It’s ok buddy, you are brave, it’s ok, your mom will take care of you.” I stood in awe of Damien. For this young man to say that, having never seen that modeled by a parent himself astounded me.
It affirmed what I already knew about this boy. Damien deserves a mom to pat his back, affirm that he has been brave on his journey in foster care and to tell him that he will always be taken care of. As we went to leave that day Damien handed my son his prized blue dog and told him to feel better while he walked out empty handed. As I made my son’s bed this morning I saw the blue dog right in the middle of his bed proudly. I glanced at the dog and I said a prayer, “please let empathetic and sweet Damien get a mom that will take care of him and tell him he is cherished, wanted and most of all that he is BRAVE!
This article was written by Ashley McKinley. the Program Development Director and North Carolina Forever Families Coordinator with Seven Homes Inc.
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