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John keeps his kids together with help from Youth Villages’ Georgia Intercept program

January 20, 2013
John, far right, has his hands full with his children, Miles, Meonah and Matthew. But the family is close and happy, and they all work together to make the home work. Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist Kimberly Hardy is also pictured.

John, far right, has his hands full with his children, Miles, Meonah and Matthew. But the family is close and happy, and they all work together to make the home work. Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist Kimberly Hardy is also pictured.

John keeps rewards handy, and seems to forget how many times he repeats instructions, as if each time were the first.

As two children with special needs take advantage of every space in a sparse, tidy living room, he metes his instructions, over and over again, quick to smile and praise when they’re followed.

What we do works for Georgia’s kids

  • Youth Villages is one of the state’s largest providers of children’s behavioral health services.
  • Since 2008, we have helped more than 1,000 children and families in Georgia in our in-home and residential programs.
  • Our commitment is firm: we have invested more than $21 million in the state since 2008.

Miles, 12, the oldest and third sibling, enters with a hearty hello, giving his brother and sister a renewed energy John attempts to rein in. It doesn’t work. The children laugh and run about for a few minutes.

John, father of Miles, Meonah, 10, and Matthew, 8, shrugs it off. This is just the beginning of his evening.

“It’s a challenge,” John said. “But we’re working together on a good routine and they’re getting better.”

Their energy drained for the moment, the children settle into personal projects. Meonah practices writing her letters, while Matthew plays at the other end of the living room. Miles sits in the kitchen eating a snack.

All three children were in foster care for eight years before John regained custody in September. Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist Kimberly Hardy worked with the family to help ensure John had support in dealing with children who have special needs.

“John has done very well learning how to deal with special needs children,” Kimberly said. “He also had to learn how to communicate with caregivers and therapists.”

His children at times don’t want to be touched. They don’t like the feeling of a toothbrush on their teeth. They can have tantrums at any time. John learned about those moments, de-escalation techniques and community resources to learn more about autism.

“I’m happy to have my children back,” John said. “But this is more than just a full-time job. I’ve learned how to plan ahead and also make sure they eat well and get plenty of rest.”

John overcame alcohol and substance abuse to create a home for his children.

“If he hadn’t taken the steps for custody, the children would have been placed for adoption,” Kimberly said. “He struggled at first, but he’s not afraid to ask questions and learn, and he’s always had a strong love for his children.”

John said Kimberly and representatives from the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services were 100 percent behind his effort.

“I knew the challenges I was facing,” John said. “But they kept me positive. They worked with me all the way.”
John has family and friends who help him out, but the children and he are tight – it’s clear they’re close to one another and their father, who has dreams about their future success.

“I’d like to see them get the best education,” John said. “I want them to graduate high school and be successful.”

John begins to sweep the kitchen as the children sit together on the sofa. Miles sings along with the opening song to “Bob the Builder” on the television. They’re settled, eating a snack. It’s apparent this is the family’s together time.

“I had to work things out, but it was up to me – I was the last option,” John said. “Someone else in my situation, I’d tell them my story and tell them it can be done.”

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