My name is Jennifer Garcia, and I am the Emergency Housing Coordinator for Southwestern Youth Services, Inc. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a host home parent who works with our agency Southwestern Youth Services, Inc. by generously opening her home to children in need. Although she is a single mother raising three children and working full time, she truly believes she has a responsibility to care for children desperately needing emergency homes. I appreciate her candidness and willingness to share her motivations, challenges, and rewards. She is an inspiration to all of us who have worked with her through SWYS, Inc, and my hope is she can touch others as well.
Q: What interested you in becoming a host home?
A: I saw an article in the paper and that piqued my interest. The Holy Spirit had been working on me about taking care of the widows and orphans – many of these kids are not orphans in a technical sense, but in every way that matters, they are. Their stories will just break your heart. They need love and a safe place, and my home has those.
Q: What motivates you to continue providing a home for children?
A: See above re: kids needing love and a safe place, and having heartbreaking stories. God has placed these kids in my home temporarily for a reason. I hope to show His love to them, and to help them see that life isn’t always hard, that there are people who can be trusted and who want to help. I know it may never sink in for these kids, which is heartbreaking, or that it will likely be well after they’ve moved on from my daily life. And that’s okay. We never know what one small gesture means to someone.
Q: Have you had training for opening your home?
A: Yes, I’ve had several hours of training. It does help you to get an idea of what you can expect, or even just how these kids think and process things (which is often very different from how my brain works).
Q: How long have you been a host home?
A: I’ve been a host home for three years now, minus a few breaks I’ve taken for a month or two at a time.
Q: What challenges do you face?
A: Obviously any new person in your home requires adjustments by everyone. Morning schedules get changed, bedroom arrangements sometimes get changed, and there’s a new personality to learn and deal with. Sometimes kids aren’t always pleasant to be around (that includes my own and even myself as well!). I’ve had things stolen from my family once or twice. It’s hard for the new kids to adjust to yet another new school and new set
of faces and often they’re behind other kids their age in school. A lot of the kids come from OKC or Tulsa, and our small town is quite an adjustment for them (not always bad).
Q: Are there rewards and what are they?
A: The rewards are usually intangible. Knowing that you’ve provided a warm home for someone who may not appreciate it for years. It’s been very good for my kids to see that they really don’t have it quite as bad as they might have thought. Some of the kids I’ve had through my home I still keep in touch with via Facebook, and it’s very nice to see them doing well.
Q: What do you think are other things potential applicants might want to know about the program?
A: It’s hard. It’s hard in ways you wouldn’t expect – but it’s also rewarding in ways you wouldn’t expect. A lot of the kids hoard food (which you come to learn, sadly, isn’t surprising-their need to do this) and that can attract mice. Sometimes these kids resent you, which can be hard when you’re providing them a nice place to live and just trying to love them. You do learn (or need to learn) not to take things personally. Wading through the red tape (*not* with SWYS, but with other agencies) can be a shocking hassle.
Q: What do you believe the job requirements are?
A: Love, patience, calm (or the ability to appear so), flexibility, a thick skin but a warm heart
willingness to sacrifice things and time
There are thousands of children in Oklahoma who have been removed from their biological home and are desperately needing emergency homes. Southwestern Youth Services, Inc. can provide training, resources, and compensation for opening your home to these children in need. Please call Jennifer Garcia at 580-471-0856 for more information.