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Joy flows in central Mississippi; therapist takes on many roles to help families be successful

June 8, 2011

Youth Villages MYPAC Therapist Joy Whitmore speaks with Madeline, left, during an individual counseling session. Whitmore worked with Madeline and Madeline’s daughter, Barbara. Whitmore is passionate about her work, and describes it as something with “a real sense of purpose.”

Joy Whitmore enjoys helping others.

This morning she’s meeting with Madeline in Vicksburg to talk about Madeline’s daughter, Barbara. It’s one of three families she’ll meet with today.

“Money is tight with this family, so we work on budgeting issues some and also work on solutions for Barbara’s behavior,” she said. “Recently, I came over here to help Madeline with a yard sale and we’re trying to find other ways to supplement the family’s income.”

Joy’s welcomed as if she were an old friend or member of the family. She’s also spoken to like one.

“I wanted to be in a job where I really help people and interact directly with them,” she said. “I think people who do this respond to a different calling. There’s a real sense of purpose to this work, and we do whatever needs to be done to help.” – Joy Whitmore

The visit is longer than most – Barbara is at school, and Joy has an opportunity to further discuss the family’s progress. Madeline discusses her concerns and fears for the future of her 14-year-old daughter and restoring a relationship.

“I’m not sure what I can do,” Madeline said. “People want peace in their home.”

They discuss options and scenarios to better address behaviors in the home. Joy leaves after more than an hour at the home. She challenges Madeline with assignments to help transition the family to a more stable, peaceful home.

Joy sees eight families once or twice a week, depending upon what the families feel they need. Having entered the foster care system herself at 16 after her grandmother passed away, she has a special perspective on family needs. She lived in foster and group homes all over East Tennessee. But her social worker stayed involved and challenged her to do more. In many ways, experiencing that support during her difficult times frames how Joy deals with her families as a therapist. Her social worker attended her college graduations and still checks in at least monthly.

“You’re a surrogate parent, coach, cheerleader and friend to your families,” Joy said. “Sometimes you have to tell them what they don’t want to hear. You have to be aggressive sometimes, but it has to be from a good place in your heart.”

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