Strengthening Families. Building Communities. Reducing Poverty.

A Safe Place for Teens in Crisis

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"You believe the law of the heart!"

Answering a call from a co-worker at Catholic Charities after 10:00 PM always means one thing -- there is a teen in crisis and s/he called the crisis hotline for help.  After an argument, Tiffany's aunt said that she had to find another place to live.  Not having anywhere else to turn, Tiffany walked into the restaurant with the big yellow Safe Place sign and asked for help.  Tiffany knew that a big yellow sign on the outside of a business meant that the business had promised to help youth in trouble.  She had learned about it at school.  Catholic Charities hosts the hotline that connects 191 Safe Place sites in Forsyth County with resources that help youth in trouble --- 24/7.

Tiffany's Mom has been incarcerated for most of her life.  Her father wont have anything to do with her so she has spent most of her life being raised by a grandmother and an aunt.  When we reached Tiffany's grandmother, it was after 11:00 PM and she was just getting off the late shift at work, but she agreed to meet with Tiffany and the Catholic Charities' social worker.

The grandmother shared harsh words and filled in some blanks in Tiffany's story.  Apparently, Tiffany has a history of running away and of staying out all night.  Like most teenagers, she has been testing the house rules, but because Tiffany's life has always been lived in extremes, she was testing the limits in the same way.  I knew Tiffany was 17, about to turn 18 years old but I was taken by surprise when she looked at me as I handed her a can of soda.  Oh my goodness - those eyes.  Yes, Tiffany is packaged in a "hard shell".  She dressed too old.  She talked too old.  Then I saw her baby eyes and I was reminded of the sweet baby she really was--lost in a home where no one claimed her.  A home without unconditional love, without security, and without the nurturing arms she needed at this transitional time in her life.  I had been blessed to catch the glimpse of this child that God created and loves every second of every day.  So I did the one thing I could do - I began to pray.  I prayed for her.  I prayed for the grandmother, her safety, for patience - for everything I could think of.

The grandmother shouted at the social worker, "Social Services tells you one thing about the law about keeping her and the police tell you another law!  Who you supposed to believe?"  Without blinking an eye or hesitating a second, our social worker said, "I'll tell you who you're supposed to believe -- you believe the law of the heart!  This young woman is your blood.  She's a part of you and needs you to do what's right.  You need to be there for her and you need to show her you love her."  After a while the grandmother and Tiffany went home together promising us that they would consider counseling sessions.  Before leaving we made sure Tiffany knew where to turn for help should she find herself alone in the world again.

Not every story has a happy ending, but I drove home that evening relieved that Catholic Charities responds to this type of crisis and incredibly proud of the way our staff responds to these calls.  Sometimes people in crisis have to be reminded that at the root of every family issue is love and love trumps everything else.  Our staff believes this which is why our mission is so strong and at the core of our work.  Your partnership with Catholic Charities allows us to share this mission with Tiffany and the many young people who turn to us in crisis every year.  What if our partnership with you did not exist and we were not able to respond?  Who would be there for Tiffany?  Who would be the one to pull love to the center of the crisis?  Please know that your partnership does matter and is making a difference every single day.  Please pray for our efforts as all at Catholic Charities prays in thanksgiving for the many supporters who make this work possible.

By Diane Bullard
Piedmont Triad Office Director

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