President’s Report: Remembering, Caring, Showing Up
Everyone has a story. It’s what we do with our story—how we allow it to define us and how we take control of it—that determines the twists and turns and, ultimately, how our story ends.
On April 18, at Fairview Baptist Church in Columbus, Mississippi, Drake Bassett, President and CEO of Palmer Home for Children, shared the stories of Palmer Home children with community members, supporters, staff members and the media during the 2017 President’s Report.
“Those of us who live in comfort, we get to deny that some pieces of our stories exist,” Bassett said, “but the children coming to Palmer Home can’t ignore that food shortage or lack of water or abuse exists.”
It’s the mission of Palmer Home to rescue and restore the children who come to them, using what time they have to help them change their story. The mission at first glance appears overwhelming. One organization may not be able to change the story for all the children in the world, but it can change the story for the ones who come through its doors.
“I can’t wrap my arms around this mission,” said Bassett of the enormity of the challenge ahead. “But it’s not our mission. It’s always been God’s mission and we’re just invited to participate in it.”
That mission starts with rescue. For over 120 years, Palmer Home has been a haven for vulnerable children, but they did not go out seeking additional children who needed help. Over the last few years, the organization has changed that model, actively offering itself as an alternative to traditional foster care. Most recently, the organization expanded its care through its private foster care network, Jonah’s Journey.
Bassett admitted the rescue part isn’t as cut and dry as pulling a child out of a difficult situation and moving them to Palmer Home. Often it involves multiple trips to court to discuss custody arrangements or working with grandparents who can no longer care for their grandchildren. Children naturally want to be with their families, even when it’s no longer a safe place for them to live, which makes talking to children about moving out of those situations difficult.
“That’s rescue,” said Bassett. “It’s mucky and it’s hard.”
On the other side of the mission lies restore. Caring for children from situations of neglect, verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse takes planning and forethought. Not every child who comes onto Palmer Home’s campus stays with Palmer Home, which means the staff has a limited amount of time to make a maximum impact and change that child’s story.
Bassett talked about the time he recently spent with his own grandchildren and mentioned members of audience who drive great distances to watch their grandchildren play ball.
“It’s about remembering, caring, showing up,” he said.
That’s what Palmer Home offers to the children on its campus. Remembering. Caring. Showing up. A statement that proved to be true a few minutes later, as Palmer Home’s Treble Makers choir sang for those gathered. Two small boys on the front row clad in starched white shirts and black pants grinned and waved at a couple in the middle of the audience—their houseparents who remembered, cared and showed up for their performance.
In addition to the houseparents, children at Palmer Home encounter staff members like teachers at Palmer School and leaders of the on-campus therapeutic programs who are committed to their story. While all of Palmer Home comes together to provide for the physical, educational and emotional development of the children in their care, they also focus on spiritual development by demonstrating the love of Christ every day.
“A lot of programs leave out the spiritual development element,” explained Bassett. “But who’s in charge of the story? God. We want our children to know there’s a Father who cares about you and is always there for you.”
However hard Palmer Home staff and its private caregiver network, Jonah’s Journey, work to help a child change his or her story, it’s not always easy. Many children are part of a cycle of incarceration, abuse and drug use.
“It takes a long time to see those stories come to fruition,” said Bassett, “but we care about every single story.”