" I feel stretched to the depth of my being. Every aspect of my life...my spirit, my body, my soul, have been challenged to an extent I have never known. God has been my strength through this past week, my first week at Salem. Otherwise, I would not have made it through. It's funny... I left family, friends, home... and entered into strangers, loneliness, oppression, violence- yet I feel peace: "the peace that passes all understanding". That's how I know I am supposed to be here.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced my first shift- the spiritual attacks, the emotional attacks, and the physical exhaustion. I know now why they told me it would be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But there are already kids, like J. and C., that have made it worth it. Father, just use me , strengthen me, and prepare me for what is ahead."
- This was a journal entry that I wrote after my first week at Salem . My first role there was as a Teaching Parent, where I basically lived there 5 days at a time with my partner, in rotation with another set of Teaching Parents. I had this ideal in my head that I would just come in and love on the children and befriend them, and they would soak everything up and receive it and appreciate it. Before you enter this type of work, you think "poor kids, they have been abused, neglected..they will just respond to any amount of affection you give them". WRONG!!! Example of one of my first interactions: The girls' bathroom had run out of toilet paper...so a 10 year old resident walked up to me and proclaimed, "Go get me some toilet paper, B**ch!" Now that is a name I had never been called before (not to my face, anyway). Needless to say, I didn't go get her the toilet paper and told her I wouldn't until she asked respectfully. She refused and got so angry that she went around banging kitchen cabinet doors, throwing chairs, cursing, etc. and ended up having to be physically restrained by another houseparent. I was in shock.... and many more of these encounters ensued, until I was thoroughly "tested" by the children to see what I was made of. Apparently, there have been staff that came in and walked out a couple of days later, with bags packed.
Abuse, neglect, and abandonment lead to severe emotional and behavioral problems in most children. They don't trust adults. The very people that should love them and protect them have harmed them and turned their back on them. For a lot of the kids at Salem, the abuse and neglect started very early in their life and they never really had an "attachment" figure, or someone they bonded with during their formative years. So you have to prove yourself to them before you will get even an "inkling" of respect or affection. I was told to go in as tough as nails, something that didn't come naturally to me...but I did it anyway. At the end of my first shift, the same 10 year old girl came up to me and said, "I don't want you to leave...will you come back?"
"Yes, I will"....... and I did.