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A giant heart for everyone to see

March 13, 2014


From time to time, people come along who defy convention.

Chad is one of those.

Physically imposing at more than 6 feet 5 inches, he’s more aptly described with such words as gentle, soft-spoken and thoughtful.
But growing up, his size and his history followed him from state placement to state placement. Many times, he was handled more roughly or severely because of his size.

Chad was very young when he suffered a family tragedy and was taken from his home. He then went through myriad foster homes and state facilities before landing in a good foster home in the Portland area. He spent a year there and at 17, he left foster care to participate in Youth Villages Oregon’s Mosaic program.

Now 23, Chad will soon move to a new town to reunite with his older brother and be close to another adult who supports him.

“The Mosaic program was very important for me,” Chad said. “It helped me learn and grow.”

And that’s not all. Chad had basic insecurities and behavior issues because of his traumatic past. On top of that, he was obstinate, and didn’t like being told what to do. When he entered Mosaic, he learned basic life skills, how to be more self-sufficient and how to make good choices on his own. Program Manager Rachel Johnson supported Chad during his five years in the program.

“Trust was the big issue during his first year,” Rachel said. “He had some rough moments, but he saw we were a support for him and not there to dictate what he did.”

And that’s the big difference between state services for children and adults, Rachel said. As a child, your path is highly monitored and accounted for.

“In the adult system, if you don’t want to engage in treatment, you don’t have to,” Rachel said. “As an adult, you have to make the appointments and then get to the appointments. If you’ve never done that before, it can be a struggle the first few times.”

“I went from having no control over what I did to being given the reins to my everyday life,” Chad said. “At first it kind of threw me for a loop.”

Chad looked for a job. He managed a budget and bought food for himself, preparing his own meals and washing his clothes. Chad found work as a prep cook and also as a peer support operator. He made mistakes, but Mosaic staff were there for support.

“It has been rough at times,” Chad said. “But when challenging situations arise, I reflect on what I learned at Mosaic and it helps.”

For many, the Mosaic program offers them an opportunity to interact in the adult world outside of the clinical or system setting.

“They have to decide what their goals are,” Rachel said. “Our big focus is getting to know the youth and build trust. Once they decide what their goals are, we offer support to help them achieve their goals.”

Chad wants to work for himself. He enjoys fishing, and said he’d like to tie his own fly-fishing flies. But he saved his highest praise for the Mosaic program and staff.

“If I hadn’t gone there, I would probably be in some state facility unaware and unable to take care of myself,” Chad said. “It’s easy, but you have to work at it. You have to take advantage of the program and get the most out of it.”

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