When Christians are willing to sacrifice time, money, energy to serve at-risk children there is potential to see them move out of the at-risk category. When this happens it is usually because a Christian adult has made the decision to become a child’s “Secondary Nurturer” to fill in the holes left by the child’s Primary Nurturer.
Below are two stories that demonstrate the type of commitment it takes to walk through life with at-risk children.
All names are changed in the following stories.
Jammal was really struggling in school — in fact he was failing.
Robert, Jammal’s “Secondary Nurturer” was to meet Jammal’s mom at the school to meet with Jammal’s teacher, the principal, and school counselor. The discussion was to be in regard to Jammal’s being admitted into a special class for children with severe learning disablities. The state would fund it but Primary Nurturers had to request it.
Robert was running a little late because of complications at his second job kept him longer than usual (he has to work a second job to provide for his family). He called the school to let them know he was on his way. The principal came on the line and told him he might as well not come because Jammal’s mom had not shown up. A Secondary Nurturer is trained, and soon experiences once on the field, that he must fight for the kids — part of which is often parenting the parents.
Robert drove to the apartment where Jammal, his mom and siblings live. There was no answer at the door but as Robert was getting back into his car Jammal’s mom drove up.
“Where have you been? We are suppose to be at the school.”
“Oh something else came up so I just figured we could reschedule,” mom replied.
“No! This is too important. Jammal deserves to be in this program. We are going to the school right now. Get in the car,” Robert challenged.
When they got to the school the principal said it would take a couple of hours to get everyone back together to meet. Robert told him that was fine — they would wait! Robert and Jammal’s mom sat down in the reception room to wait (as with most Secondary Nurturers Robert was use to waiting in school reception rooms).
Standing in the gap for at-risk children often means parenting the parents. It means walking through life not just with a child but with an entire family. It means getting to know the teachers, principal, counselors so they trust you. It means going to school events, volunteering at school, working with not against the school.
The call came late in the afternoon, “Myra we are going to be taking the Jones children into protective custody tomorrow morning at the school. Would you like to be there so it is a little less traumatizing for them? You can ride with them to the foster home.” The call had come from a social worker whom Myra had spent time getting to know.
Building a relationship with social service providers makes a huge difference in being able to stand in the gap for the children you serve. This takes time and effort. It can take years to build a relationship where they will trust you.
If you have built a strong relationship with the school it can help to open the door to the Department of Children and Family Services. We had one school who knew that DCFS was coming and asked them to notify the children’s Secondary Nurturers.
A Secondary Nurturer becomes the constant in a child’s life. To do that they work on building a relationship with all the social service professionals in a kid’s life. It is about team work. This takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. It takes perseverance.
By building relationships with the Primary Nurturers and walking with them through life as they parent a lot of subtle parental training just happens. Because the Secondary Nurturer is a trusted friend, not an authority figure, the Primary Nurturer listens.