The cigarette burns on Sam’s thin legs told a story he wasn’t willing to relive.
He looked like a ghost when he walked through the doors of the residential care facility. His fingernails were paper-thin and his skin was the color of ash — both signs of malnutrition and neglect.
Sam didn’t look anyone in the eye. He placed one foot in front of the other, his dark eyes staring straight ahead. He was unresponsive — intentionally unaware of his surroundings. Because he came from such an aggressive and angry home, he’d created a world of his own to escape the harsh realities of his life – a life he didn’t choose for himself.
When he walked into the cafeteria and sat down in front of a plate of food, he silently devoured the entire meal, like a boy who had never experienced what it meant to be full.
The staff at the Palmer Home residential partner facility made sure he received more than enough vitamins, whole grains, and vegetables. He visited pediatricians, dentists, and optometrists for the first time in his life. Color returned to his face over that first year. Weight started to give shape to his thin frame.
As Sam’s health improved, so did his performance in school. In his first year, his caregivers were concerned he would never catch up to his grade level. But within a few months, his teachers approached the residential facility staff and asked if they could test Sam for the gifted placement program. His performance confirmed what they suspected; today he is ahead of his peers academically.
When a child grows up in an environment like Sam did, trusting another person is usually a difficult lesson to learn. “They’ve had horrible things done to them and that doesn’t go away overnight,” said Meg Blaylock, Palmer Home social services manager. “It doesn’t go away with cleaning them up, taking them to the dentist, and putting a roof over their head. All of that is wonderful, but it takes a long time to undo the trauma.”
Like most children who come through Palmer Home for Children, Sam’s greatest challenge is learning how to trust. He’s making great strides, but it’s a long and slow road back towards the emotional stability required for a child to trust again after experiencing severe trauma.
What has improved quickly, much to the relief of his caregivers and teachers, is his physical health and academic success. Discovering the newfound strength of his muscles while he plays basketball and watching his grades improve with every passing day has given Sam a confidence he’s never experienced before.
On top of his progress in health and education, Sam is learning that there is a God who loves him unconditionally – a God who will never leave him alone, even in the darkest moments of life. Sam is finally beginning to find rest and hope in the knowledge that God won’t fail him, even where the adults of his past have.