Letters

Letters 8-18-2014

The Climate Clarified

Climate change isn’t an easy subject. A class I’m taking compared it to medicine in a way that was helpful for me: Climate scientists are like planetary physicians. Our understanding of medicine is incomplete, but what we know is useful...

Beware Non-Locally Grown

The article “Farm Fresh?” couldn’t be any more true than exactly stated. As an avid shopper at the local farm markets I want to know “exactly” what I am buying, from GMO free to organic or not organic, sprayed or not sprayed and with what...

Media Bias Must End

I wish to thank Joel Weberman for his letter “Seeking Balanced Israel Coverage.” The pro-Palestinian bias includes TV news coverage...

Proud of My President

The world is a mess. According to many conservative voices, it would not be in such a mess if Obama was not the president. I am finally understanding that the problem with our president is that he is too thoughtful, too rational, too realistic, too inclined to see things differently and change his mind, too compassionate to be the leader of a free world...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Sara Caldwell
. . . .

Sara Caldwell

Anne Stanton - March 22nd, 2010
Sara Caldwell Pays It Forward The 30-year-old opens her home to deeply troubled teens
By Anne Stanton
While most single women in their 20s are playing the dating game and
exploring the night life, Sara Caldwell took a different route. She
welcomed her one-year-old cousin, Cory, into her home as a foster
child and kissed her social life good-bye.
Overnight, her life revolved around nursing the sick toddler back to
health. Hospitalized as a baby for pneumonia and asthma, he still
heavily wheezed at night. When breathing attacks threatened
suffocation, she’d rush him to the emergency room. She has two words
for that first year: sleep deprivation.
“My life became pretty limited. I went down to three days of work (she
worked as a nurse at Munson), and Cory and I stayed home. My sisters
would help out so I could get groceries because taking Cory out in
public was not an easy task. When he first came to me, oh my goodness,
he was so sick. His poor hair was scraggly, he was so malnourished. I
didn’t think that boy would ever have normal hair.”
Cory was sick, in part, because his birth parents had exposed him and
his brother to the truck exhaust by putting him in a second-hand car
seat strapped into a pick-up truck bed with a bungee cord. “It took a
nasty toll on their lungs,” Sara said.
Sara adopted Cory when he was 2 1/2, and has since adopted two
others—Raven, 7, and her half-brother Gabe, 3. She’s also the legal
guardian for Tosha, a 17-year-old from Elk Rapids.
Caldwell has decided to take another step. She will be one of the
first families to accept an assignment from a Child and Family
Services program called Treatment Foster Care. This program helps
adolescents, ages 12 to 17, who are on court-ordered probation or are
either on their way or returning from out-of-town residential care to
get help for emotional problems. This program gives them a chance to
stay in their hometown.
Fortunately, Caldwell, 30, now has a partner by her side. Two and a
half years ago, she married Alan Caldwell, her neighbor in Suttons
Bay (they have since moved to a tidy home in Cedar). A Grand Traverse
County Sheriff’s deputy, who has four adult children, Alan jokingly
calls himself Sara’s “backbone.”
The Treatment Foster Care program builds upon an existing program by
the same name. Under the old program, the foster teen would receive
additional visits from a treatment foster care social worker.
Now the troubled teen will move in with a specially trained foster
family from 90 days to twelve months, with a goal of returning home.
Each week, the teen will meet with all the people involved his or her
life—parents, treatment foster parents, relatives and friends, as
well as teachers, counselors, the probation officer, the treatment
foster care worker, and court personnel, said Joseph Sanok, foster
care supervisor.
The philosophy is that the teen accepts and takes control of their
life. When the teen hits certain goals, she or he is allowed to
return home.
“The child’s environment won’t magically change, so we want the
meetings to continue even after they return home,” Sanok said.
The program will accept referrals from Leelanau, Grand Traverse and
Mason counties. The foster family will receive a stipend about double
that of traditional foster care pay.
Treatment foster parents will receive 30 hours over twelve weeks of
specialized training that will instruct them on how to teach the teen
to replace negative with positive behaviors. Homes will also be
screened and licensed. The program, which has already recruited six
families, urgently needs six more families with the experience or
aptitude of caring for deeply troubled teens.
It might seem like an overwhelming challenge, but Sara and Alan said
their faith gives the family purpose and a sense of calm. They pray
together each morning, and the kids are often reminded of Bible
phrases, such as, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”
“I think, growing up, I knew this is what God wanted me to do. I feel
very, very blessed. You’re here for a reason. When you touch someone
else’s life, it touches your own life. You pay it forward.”
The Caldwells have a chore board, and the family stands by it. “We
emphasize ‘Team Caldwell,’” she said.
Even so, she doesn’t want to be seen as a “perfect family.”
There are fights, tantrums, and kids threatening to run away. One teen
girl, too troubled to cope, went to the hospital for psychiatric
treatment.
“We’ve taken in kids who fully expect that we’re perfect and get upset
when we mess up. I tell them, we are a real family and real families
aren’t perfect,” she said.
Sara and Al also expect their kids to act like real kids: “We once got
to Avalanche Bay, it was 8 p.m., and we had a snack at Pizza Hut.
Everything was set against us. The kids were tired; I knew anything
would make them explode. And nothing happened. I thought, ‘We can eat
in a restaurant! We’re getting there.’ You put your time in, and you
see results!”

Editor’s note: If you’re interested in becoming a treatment foster
care parent, please email Joseph Sanok at jsanok@cfsmail.org.

 
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