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boys-town-new-england-celebrates-25-years-at-its-spirit-of-youth-galaBoys Town New England Celebrates 25 Years at its Spirit of Youth GalaNew England
Monday, Jun 13, 2016

​​On Friday, May 6, 2016 Boys Town New England celebrated its annual Spirit of Youth Gala at The Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island. This year’s gala celebrated an important milestone, seeing as 2016 marks the site’s 25th anniversary.

The gala welcomed 250 guests who enjoyed dinner, dancing, raffles, and a silent auction. During the event, Executive Director Bill Reardon recognized past Spirit of Youth Honorees who have played pivotal roles supporting Boys Town over the last 25 years. These honorees include:

  • Mrs. Beatrice Bazarsky
  • Mr. William Corcoran Esq.
  • Former Congressman Mr. Patrick Kennedy
  • Raytheon and its Employees
  • The McIntyre Family
  • The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund
  • Mr. Michael Ryan
  • The Employees of Pare Corporation
  • The Honorable Laureen D’Ambra

“This year’s event had one of our bigger turnouts, if not the biggest,” said Bill Reardon, Executive Director, Boys Town New England. “It ​was gratifying to see all the community support we received, including the past honorees of the Spirit of Youth award, who turned out to help us celebrate our 25th year of helping children and families in the New England area. We look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence for years to come.”

Boys Town thanks the staff, volunteers, and supporters who continue to support the mission.

boys-town-new-england-receives-united-way-grantBoys Town New England Receives United Way GrantNew England
Thursday, May 26, 2016

​​​Boys Town New England has been awarded a grant by United Way of ​Rhode Island in the amount of $300,000 to support community engagement efforts at the site. Boys Town will receive $100,000 yearly for three years to support its In-Home Family ServicesSM program in Central Falls, Rhode Island and Pawtucket, Rhode Island where Boys Town will receive referrals from the school system in each town.

“The most exciting part of this funding is that it gives us the ability to kick off some amazing community engagement efforts,” said Ashley Kuzmanko, Boys Town New England Development Director. The groundwork for this program was laid early on by Community Engagement Developer Marcy Shyllon. Marcy built relationships with the Central Falls and Pawtucket school districts and with city officials to make this initiative possible. Receiving funding was the last piece of the puzzle to begin offering In-Home Family Services to families in these two communities.

The grant is awarded by United Way for the first year of its new 2016-2019 grant cycle, with a focus on funding efforts that help kids fall in love with learning, help adults reach new career goals, and help families meet their basic needs. In total, United Way has awarded $3.1 million in grants among the $12 million it has committed through 2019 to help change the lives of 250,000 Rhode Islanders by 2020, the overarching goal of its new strategic plan, LIVE UNITED 2020.

"The collaboration between Boys Town New England’s development office, local community engagement efforts and programs, as well as the support from our national office made this opportunity possible,” said Kuzmanko. “We are very excited about this funding as it will allow us to truly make a difference in two communities here in Rhode Island.”

Boys Town New England submitted its funding application in response to United Way’s request for proposals last fall. The submission was one of 224 proposals received by United Way. Funding proposals were put through a vigorous review process by a diverse group of 75 United Way community volunteers, who spent nearly six months reviewing proposals before delivering their funding recommendations to the United Way Community Investment Advisory Committee for approval. Volunteers received more than ten hours of training to become reviewers, and were tasked with taking a total of $16.5 million in funding requests to allocate the $3.1 million made available by United Way.

“While our goal of changing 250,000 lives by 2020 is ambitious, the innovative ideas of the funding proposals we received really captured the forward thinking we need to make the vision a reality,” said Anthony Maione, President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island. “We know that when families have access to stable housing, children receive the opportunities they need to succeed in the classroom, and adults get the support they need to advance in the workforce, there’s no limit to how strong our communities can become—and that helps everyone.”

boys-town-new-england-silver-anniversaryBoys Town New England Silver Anniversary New England
LEFT: Karen Sironen, Casey Smith, Tayor Zurowski, and Ashley Blaess
Friday, May 13, 2016

This article was posted ​on newportthisweek.com on Thursday, May 12th.

2016 marks the 25th year that Boys Town New England has been part of the Newport County community, serving at-risk children and families throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Since opening its doors in 1991, over 4,000 children and 1,600 families have benefited from the hallmarked services which include the Boys Town Family Home Program, situated on the 18-acre Bazarsky Campus in Portsmouth.

In celebration of this landmark, 250 guests attended the annual Boys Town New England Spirit of Youth Gala at the Hotel Viking on May 6. During the event, Executive Director Bill Reardon recognized past Spirit of Youth honorees who have played pivotal roles in supporting the mission over the last 25 years. These honorees included Beatrice Bazarsky, William Corcoran Esq., former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Raytheon and its employees, the McIntyre Family, the Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, Michael Ryan, employees of Pare Corporation, and the Honorable Laureen D’Ambra.

All proceeds from this event directly support the programs offered at Boys Town New England such as foster family services, in-home family services, family visitation services and common sense parenting classes.

In 2015, Boys Town provided services to over 800 children and 300 families in Rhode Island. Boys Town New England is one of the 11 national sites of Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys aka Boys Town, which has served millions of children and families nationwide since 1917. Boys Town New England is proud to be a part of an agency that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017.

with-boys-town-new-englands-help-mom-gains-self-confidence-reunites-with-daughterWith Boys Town New England's Help, Mom Gains Self-Confidence, Reunites with DaughterNew England
Jessie Raymond
Wednesday, Dec 30, 2015

When difficult ​circumstances led to the removal of Jessie Raymond’s 8-year-old daughter from their home by child protective services, Jessie had just one goal – improve her situation so she could get her child back.

The problem was, Jessie didn’t know where to turn.

She had no job. She had little financial support. And she also was caring for her disabled mother.

For Jessie, there were many questions but few answers. Fortunately, she found Boys Town New England and Family Consultant Emily Garmirian.

As part of the site’s In-Home Family Services program, Garmirian began making regular visits to Jessie’s home. Garmirian soon understood the family’s situation, and she and Jessie talked through what had to happen in order for Jessie’s daughter to come home. They laid out goals and what Jessie would need to do to achieve them.

One of the first issues the two women tackled was Jessie’s unemployment.

Emily had not had a job for about eight years. Her attempts to interview for and obtain steady employment were hindered by her sometimes fragile emotional state. Suffering from extreme anxiety, she was barely able to make it through an interview.

“Most of the time, I would end up crying afterward,” Jessie said.

Through practice and hard work, Jessie gradually learned skills that would help her succeed.

“Emily helped me gain confidence to be myself,” Jessie said. “She convinced me that I can talk to people better than I thought I could. More than anything, though, Emily helped me feel better about myself.”

Leading up to a job interview, Garmirian role-played with Jessie and went over questions that might be asked. They talked about appropriate answers and how Jessie could interact with her potential employer. When the day came, Garmirian accompanied Jessie to her job interview and sat in to provide support.

Afterward, Garmirian praised Jessie for her bravery in the interview.

“I was proud of myself,” Jessie said.

Jessie eventually landed a job and began earning a steady income. But there was a bigger picture to the entire process. She was beginning to understand what it was going to take to be successful as a mom and a provider.

“The interview skills helped me in getting a job,” Jessie said. “But it helped me in other areas, too, like meeting people. When you’re down so long, it’s hard to believe that things can get better. They definitely did, though.”

Boys Town New England also connected Jessie to local resources, all of which helped her improve her home situation so her daughter could return. She found furniture for her apartment, utilized local food banks and clothing banks, identified local farmers’ markets that accepted food stamps and learned household budgeting skills. And Jessie completed the Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® curriculum, which helps parents enhance their parenting skills and learn new ones.

The biggest blessing came when Jessie and her daughter were finally reunited. Jessie said she appreciated the way she was treated by Garmirian and all the people at Boys Town New England.

“I really liked the Boys Town people,” Jessie said. “They were nice to me and my daughter. And they never made me feel bad that I had lost my daughter in the first place. They always made me feel like I’m a good mom, and I’m working hard and I deserved to have her back.”

Day-to-day life is still difficult for Jessie. She works hard to care for her daughter and her mom, and does her best to make ends meet.

But the main thing is that her family is back together.

“Boys Town has been very supportive,” Jessie said. “Without them, I definitely would not have been able to meet all the standards the state required for me to get my daughter back. I am so thankful.”

orphan-sunday-event-helps-recruit-foster-familiesOrphan Sunday Event Helps Recruit Foster FamiliesNew England
Monday, Dec 14, 2015

As the leaves begin to fall from the trees and we approach the holiday season, many of us feel more inspired to ask: How can I be of service to others?

In Seekonk, Massachusetts, just a few miles from Rhode Island, Boys Town New England Foster Family ServicesSM gathered recently at His Providence Church to try to answer that question together. The dinner event celebrated Orphan Sunday, an international call-to-action organized by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. The event was held on the evening of Sunday, November 8, as a part of His Providence Church’s annual program which has been running for a few years now.

Orphan Sunday began in a church in Zambia, Africa when an American churchgoer named Gary Schneider felt inspired by the pastor’s plea for Christians to help save the lives of the many orphans in the area. Spreading to the United States in 2003, the movement has inspired many churches and organizations to dedicate a day to the cause each year.

For His Providence church, the dinner event has been primarily a way of encouraging members of their community to consider fostering or adopting a child in need. Boys Town New England’s Foster Family Services program has been connected to the project for most of its history, linking interested families with resources and education. In fact, two of the event’s facilitators, Kim and John Gagne, have since helped recruit several foster families for Boys Town New England.

Director of Program Operations Doug Vanden Hoek says Kim’s involvement in particular has been pivotal to growth within the program. “She’s developed some really good relationships with folks in our Foster Family Services Program services program, and has been very helpful in recruiting foster families.”

The food was catered to the church, and guests enjoyed their meal while listening to the heartwarming stories of multiple foster parents, including one family who recently adopted two of their Boys Town foster kids. Boys Town New England had an informational booth set up to help recruit new foster care providers.

They say that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world, and this holiday season, the community at Orphan Sunday seems to have the potential to do just that. Boys Town New England wishes to thank His Providence Church and all of those involved with this event for helping save lives by connecting youth with their forever families.

william-reardon-some-at-risk-youths-need-residential-careWilliam Reardon: Some at-risk youths need residential careNew England
Thursday, Nov 19, 2015

This article ​was originally published on November 18, 2015 in the Providence Journal.

For more than a quarter-century, one primary principle has guided Boys Town New England in its mission to help children and families: Always do what is best for the child.

We firmly support the idea that all children should grow up in families that love and support them as they mature into healthy adults. We also agree that the vast majority of at-risk children and youth can find stability and receive the treatment they require while remaining with their own family or living with relatives, when their safety can be assured.

Last year, three out of every four youth who received treatment through Boys Town services received those services in their own homes. When services such as foster care or family-based interventions can provide effective assistance, those youth should receive help in that manner. However, there will always be a subset of troubled youth who need a higher level of care. Often, these high-needs children have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Many suffer from severe behavioral or mental health issues. Trauma has been their constant companion, and the result usually is extreme behavior problems, school failure and a sense of isolation and withdrawal.

It is unrealistic to expect foster parents to manage and/or change such behaviors, so foster care cannot be the only out-of-home option for these youth.

High-quality residential care is often the only answer for stabilizing these high-needs children, teaching them the skills they need for success and preparing them for placement in a permanent family. And although this type of care costs more in the short term, it results in long-term personal and economic benefits for youth, their families and society.

Tens of thousands of youth have experienced significant positive changes in their lives through high-quality residential care. With this care option, boys and girls with serious problems can get the treatment they need in a safe environment from caregivers who are properly trained to address even their most serious challenges. And anyone who works in juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health care and education knows a troubled child who could benefit from the intensive care provided by a high-quality residential care program.

Sadly, some decision makers and child welfare reformers want to do away with residential care, saying it traumatizes children by removing them from their own family, is expensive and does not produce positive outcomes. Unfortunately, these critics don’t differentiate between poor- and high-quality residential care, and ignore research (www. boystown.org/quality-care) that shows that good residential care is the best option for children whose treatment needs cannot be met through foster care and family-based programs.

This is why Boys Town and a number of other organizations have taken a leadership role in advocating high-quality residential care, both in New England and across the nation. We believe such care is the most effective way to treat high-needs children and gives them their best opportunity to achieve positive outcomes. We see those positive outcomes every day in the youth who receive compassionate, effective care in our family-style residential program at Boys Town New England.

We strongly disagree with critics who contend that eliminating high-quality residential care is the answer to cutting costs and reforming the child welfare system while still providing effective care for youth with the greatest needs. The experience of other countries like Australia and England provides grim examples of how children suffer when public policy goes too far in restricting effective treatment for them. As these countries dismantled their residential care systems, children began to experience more failed placements, were placed farther away from their family of origin and were increasingly involved in the juvenile justice system or became homeless.

High-quality residential care must be available for boys and girls who suffer from the most severe emotional, behavioral and mental health problems. Boys Town and its fellow advocates know the needs of these children firsthand and will continue to fight to ensure they receive the right care, in the right way, at the right time.

blue-across-rhode-island-event-helps-improve-boys-town-homesBlue Across Rhode Island Event Helps Improve Boys Town HomesNew England
Thursday, Oct 29, 2015

They say it’s the little things that make a house a home. This season, Boys Town New England got a lot of help with those little things in an effort to make the youth living on their Bazarsky campus feel even more at home.

This year Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island celebrated its 4th annual “Blue Across Rhode Island” event, an annual day of service during which they choose multiple non-profit organizations throughout Rhode Island to receive a $5,000 grant as well as volunteers to complete a proposed project. This was Boys Town New England’s first time applying and being chosen as a host agency for this event.

About 70 Blue Cross & Blue Shield volunteers showed up on Friday, October 2, to help paint the interiors of four Bazarsky campus family homes as well as 7 BEHR Paint-Pro volunteers. Some of the youth even got to help choose paint colors.

Boys Town Rhode Island Donors Relations Specialist Amanda Richardson said the walls had not been repainted since the campus was built 10 years ago. She adds: “We would never have been able to paint all the homes without this help.”

Not only did Blue Cross Blue Shield generously supply the $5,000 grant for the project, but they also provided busing for volunteers and helped secure media coverage. The CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island was on site Friday.

The team at Boys Town Rhode Island also received help on the days leading up to the event. “On a smaller scale, we had a group from Ocean Point Church come in with about 30 volunteers to help prep the homes,” said Richardson. In addition, paint was provided by Behr paint, who sent volunteers to help out on October 2. It was truly a community event.

The youth were happy to see their homes become even a little more their own than before, and are excited about the improvements. Boys Town New England wishes to express extreme gratitude to Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Ocean Pointe Christian Church and BEHR Paint and looks forward to building on these relationships in the future.

an-island-of-stabilityAn Island of Stability New England
Frankie Lopez, 18, inside his home at Boys Town, is a senior at Portsmouth High School. The Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski
Monday, Mar 2, 2015

This article is written by ​Donita Naylor. It was published February 28, 2015 at ProvidenceJournal.com.

Directly across from the entrance to Raytheon on Route 114 is Flanagan Road, named after Father Flanagan, founder of the original Boys Town in Nebraska.

Flanagan Road leads to Boys Town New England, which consists of five large ranch-style houses and an office building. Together they resemble an upscale condo neighborhood. On the sloping lawns, a doe and her twin fawns were often seen last summer, grazing placidly in the presence of children.

Living in each house is a married couple, their children and six children for whom Boys Town was a last resort.

"If they're coming to us, there's no other place for them," said Matthew Zoerhof, 32, who serves with his wife, Kathy, 29, as family teachers for six boys and girls 12 and younger.

The children stay until a more permanent setting can be found for them.

The Zoerhofs, who met at church in Holland, Mich., have no children of their own. They have parented at one of the two homes for younger children for more than three years and said that, in their house, they do "anything that is done in a regular normal home."

Except they keep a 9-foot artificial evergreen in a corner of the living room all year, decorating it according to the next special day on the calendar.

On a February afternoon when the tree bloomed with paper hearts, one boy worked with a tutor at the dining table, one girl met in therapy with her family of origin in the office, and another girl read aloud to Michaela Newcomb, the family assistant, in the playroom. The home's three younger children had not yet returned from school.

Because of the snow on the enclave's rolling hills, sledding is a popular event, and sleds were included in the heaps of presents donated to each child for Christmas, the Zoerhofs said.

"The problem with sleds, as we're learning, is they don't last very long," Matthew Zoerhof said. Luckily, Boys Town has extras. Kathy Zoerhof said the children like to form sled trains, and she likes to join them when she can.

"We consider it to just be a huge joy," Matthew Zoerhof said of being a parent to six children. "It can be gut-wrenching because you build a relationship with them and you love them to pieces and they do end up moving on."

The other three homes are for adolescent boys, from 13 to 17 years old, although one young man, Frankie Lopez, is 18. He arranged to stay until he graduates from Portsmouth High School in June. He's learning about independent living in hopes of moving into an apartment. He'd like it to be in Middletown or Newport so he can attend the Community College of Rhode Island. He wants to be a social worker.

From the age of 12, Lopez said, he was in and out of Boys Town and other group homes. "I decided when I was 16, I was done worrying. Since Boys Town was always the constant in my life, I gave it a shot," he said. "I took all the tools they gave me."

buy-a-bird-campaign-provides-fresh-thanksgiving-baskets-for-ihfs-familiesBuy A Bird Campaign Provides Fresh Thanksgiving Baskets for IHFS FamiliesNew England
Thursday, Jan 8, 2015

Families in the Boys Town New ​England In-Home Family Services (IHFS) program were given Thanksgiving baskets during the Buy A Bird social media fundraising campaign, Nov. 1-15. For the second year, staff used the Boys Town New England Facebook page and emails to help spread the word.

This year, Thanksgiving baskets were extra special because they contained fresh food and dairy products, all which were packed in reusable shopping bags. Also, many of the items put in the baskets, such as stuffing and pumpkin pies were made from scratch with homemade recipes.

Families were extremely grateful for the unexpected holiday dinner. One grandmother raising her grandchild thought she wouldn't be able to holiday dinner for the child to experience until Boys Town New England swept in to the rescue. “When I arrived at their place with a Thanksgiving basket for them, the grandmother was overjoyed, saying I was an angel sent from the sky," said Sarah Koley, Director, Boys Town New England IHFS Program. "It was such a rewarding experience to see the simple joy of one basket."

Eleven employees helped distribute 48 Thanksgiving baskets. The campaign raised more than $3,500 thanks to donors like you.

portsmouth-cops-reach-out-through-hoops-hoodsiesPortsmouth Cops Reach Out Through Hoops, HoodsiesNew England
A Boys Town player sets a pick on Portsmouth Police Detective Nick Arruda (wearing gray tank top). Photo by Richard W. Dionne Jr
Thursday, Sep 25, 2014

This article was posted by EastBayRI.com on August 9, 2014. Please follow the link to see pictures accompanying this story.

PORTSMOUTH — After being fed the ball for a breakaway, ​a Boys Town player seemingly had an open path to the hoop for an easy basket.

Until, that is, he ran into Deputy Police Chief Brian Peters, who got a hand on the ball and forcefully swatted it out of bounds.

“You know what they call that?” asked Officer Shawn Church, Major Peters’ teammate. “The long arm of the law.”

After sharing a quick laugh, the two teams — Portsmouth Police Department vs. Boys Town — got back to their hard-fought game which featured some impressive outside shooting, bodies banging underneath the hoop and even a little trash-talking.

“Nineteen to 15 — the good guys,” Detective Nick Arruda teased after the cops scored another basket to increase their lead. The first team to score 21 by at least two points would be declared the winner, so victory seemed close at hand for police.

But the boys weren’t through. Comfortable on their home court at the Boys Town New England’s Bazarsky Campus across from Raytheon on West Main Road, the young players clawed back to tie the game at 22. Shortly after that, a 20-foot jump shot put them ahead 24-23.

Detective Arruda, however, ended up putting the game away for the cops with an outside shot of his own. Final score: 26-24.

The game was more than just a friendly competition to break some sweat. It was one of several events held Tuesday for National Night Out which is designed to improve relationships between residents and police and emergency personnel, with the goal of reducing crime and encouraging neighbors to look out for one another.

Although National Night Out was first initiated 31 years ago, Police Chief Thomas Lee said Portsmouth hasn’t participated in many of them over the years.

“It’s just a little bit of community outreach from the police department,” said Chief Lee, adding that the department was invited to play basketball with kids from Boys Town during a cookout with them earlier this year.  “We want to show the kids, ‘Hey, we’re not bad guys.’”

Hopefully, he said, police get the message across that residents — particularly teens and young children — can go to the police if they ever need help, he said.

“We want them to see the human side of policing. They see us all the time in the cruiser and sometimes it’s not in the best of circumstances. Let them see us off duty playing ball. It’s just a different experience,” said Chief Lee.

Kelvin Santos, a residential consultant at Boys Town New England, which has five family homes serving 30 adolescents and young children, said the kids were thrilled to have a chance to compete against the police.

“We’ve got some solid athletes here. The nice thing is, we know no one’s going AWOL today,” said Mr. Santos. “It’s a perfect opportunity for the boys to see the police in a different light — come out, play some basketball with them, hustle up and show them that they’re not the enemy.”

Like Mr. Santos said, the Boys Town players were no pushovers. Several of them play competitive ball, including Louis, who’s on the Portsmouth High School team and is entering his junior year.

“It was pretty cool, having them come down here and play us,” said Louis before joining the police for some pizza.

Coffee and ice cream
Basketball wasn’t the only outreach the police took part in Tuesday. The day started with a “Coffee with a Cop” at Portsmouth Publick House. Nine members of the department were there, although they didn’t get much of a turnout from the public.

Resident John Vitkevich, however, made sure the conversation stayed lively. He talked about the potential of a regional police department for Aquidneck Island, the need for more officers on the local force, and the location for the next “Coffee with a Cop.”

“You should have done this on the (Island Park) seawall,” said Mr. Vitkevich.

In the afternoon, two police officers handed out 100 free Hoodsie cups to children in some of the bigger neighborhoods in town, such as Island Park and Common Fence Point.

“The kids had fun. It was great,” said Officer Garrett Coyne, one of the officers in charge of the ice cream.

they-knew-life-would-be-better-with-kids-in-the-houseThey Knew Life Would Be Better With Kids in the House New England
BOB THAYER/THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL
Thursday, May 1, 2014

This story was first posted on ProvidenceJournal.com  on April 5, 2014. It is written by Bob Kerr. You may ​also view a video of this story on Turnto10.com.

The house in North Smithfield was quiet, too quiet. Sure, it was nice to be able to go out to eat more often, take in a movie. But things were different when they came home, and Michael and Leslie Forget didn’t much care for it.

“This house was always full of people coming and going,” said Leslie.

But their son, Stephen, who’s 25, and daughter, Stephanie, 21, grew up and moved out, as sons and daughters will.

“Empty nest,” said Michael.

So they filled it up again. And then some. Now, there are six Forget children. Stephen and Stephanie have two new brothers and two new sisters.

“It’s going to be boyfriends, girlfriends, proms, college all over again,” said Leslie.

“We’re going to need a bigger house,” said Michael.

To walk into a house and see this kind of generous spirit — and to meet four kids embracing a new and priceless stability — does wonders for a sense of what matters.

The Forgets met at North Smithfield High School and have been together for 30 years. She is a school bus driver and dispatcher. He was a truck driver for more than 20 years but recently moved to an office job to be able to spend more time with his newly expanded family.

Four years ago, when the silence in the house was just too much, they became foster parents through Boys Town New England. They thought they could give kids a home while the kids were away from their parents.

The Forgets weren’t thinking about adoption. They were just thinking about opening up their home to kids who were in a tough situation.

Then, in October 2011, came brothers Darran and Jonathan. They had been living in residential care with Boys Town when they moved to foster care with the Forgets. Their sisters, Shawna and Savannah, were placed in a different foster home through a different agency. It is one of the hard, cruel realities of family breakdown and foster care that brothers and sisters are often split up.

In March 2012, the foster parents with whom the sisters lived could no longer take care of them. Leslie and Michael were asked if they would take the girls and bring the four children together.

“We had a family talk,” said Michael.

That meant Leslie, Michael, Stephen, Stephanie, Darran and Jonathan sat down together to discuss the possibility of the sisters moving in. Everyone would have to play a part if it were to work.

It worked. The sisters came to North Smithfield.

“It’s amazing how the four of them care for each other,” said Leslie.

Still, adoption was not in the plan, not right away. The Forgets were very open with the kids about that.

Then the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) started talking about the need for permanence, for “forever” families. But DCYF also expressed doubts that all four siblings could be placed in the same adoptive home.

The Forgets met with DCYF. There was discussion of putting the brothers and sisters in the adoption registry.

That’s when Michael Forget put an end to all the uncertainty that four kids had been living with for too long.

“I said, ‘They’re not leaving.’”

The darnedest thing had happened.

“We fell in love,” said Leslie.

They fell in love with four kids who filled the house on Colerick Street with all that young energy and youthful noise that they had been missing.

There was another family meeting.

“We asked if they wanted us to be their forever family,” said Michael.

The kids approved.

“We were too close to break up,” said Leslie.

Still, there were details to be worked out. There was Family Court, and the children’s biological parents, who wanted a completely open adoption with unrestricted access to the children.

Leslie said she and her husband think it is in the kids’ best interests to maintain some contact with their biological parents. But there had to be limits.

An agreement was worked out. There will be two supervised visits a year.

The adoption became official on Jan. 31. A picture of the family with Family Court Judge Laureen D’Ambra sits on a table in the living room.

They had a lot of help to make it all happen, said Leslie. Matt Gunnip, their DCYF social worker, and Stephanie Razmini, a consultant from Boys Town, came up big in making the process as smooth as possible.

And they have help moving forward. Leslie’s mother, Kathryn Lemire, gets the kids to their doctor and dentist appointments. And a cousin, Henry Lavimodiere, who lives with the Forgets, makes sure the kids make it to the school bus.

Now, Darran and Jonathan, both 10, put in a lot of time with Legos after school and offer brief reviews on their new life with the Forgets:

Darran: “I’m happy.”

Jonathan: “Happy.”

Savannah, who’s 7, says it’s all “really good.”

“I like it,” said Shawna, who’s 11. “I like the things they like to do with us. When we first came here, I knew we weren’t going home. I thought we’d be split up.”

But they’re not split up. They’re together, as brothers and sisters should be. They’re together because two hard-working people decided life is a whole lot richer with kids in the house.

Learn more about being a Foster Parent and call Boys Town New England at 401-845-2250.

april-is-child-abuse-awareness-monthApril is Child Abuse Awareness MonthNew England
Image is from https://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/
Monday, Mar 31, 2014

Every day, more than five children die as ​a result of child abuse. Many of these children are under the age of four.

Child  abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. That's why it's important we all work together to raise awareness of child abuse and what to watch for if it's suspected.

Some things to look for are:

  • Unkempt, unclean appearance
  • Acting out in school
  • Lying
  • Bodily injuries in unusual areas, like the back, face or legs
  • Child is vague about their injuries, or the injury appears suspicious

When a child tells you they are being abused or neglected, what should you do? First, listen to the child - don’t lead or pressure them into talking. Use children’s vocabulary, and reassure them that they are doing the right thing. Don’t promise not to tell others and report the case immediately. 

For tips and more information about how you can help prevent child abuse and neglect, visit www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/ You can also call or email the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 or hotline@boystown.org.

Together we can make a difference in the life of a child.

 

 

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