Bumpy Past Smooths Out into Promising Future

Bumpy Past Smooths Out into Promising Future

Jackson doesn’t remember how long the drive to his new home was, but he does remember the tightness in his stomach growing stronger with every mile he moved along the interstate. At seven years old, his life was about to change forever.

Until that point, Jackson had lived with his mother, father, and six siblings in a three-bedroom apartment in the southwest suburbs of Indianapolis. As a young boy, he didn’t understand the hardship faced by his family. He didn’t know what “gambling” was, or why his mother always used this word to explain his father’s disappearances most weekends.

“At the time I didn’t know why we were being separated from our parents,” he said. “I felt so lost.”

For years, Jackson’s father struggled to control his gambling habit, which caused the family of nine to experience extended periods of intense poverty. His father also struggled to hold a job while his mother desperately tried to hold the family together. Then Child Protective Services stepped in, tipped off by an extended family member.

Soon Jackson and two of his six siblings found themselves being driven down the highway on a summer morning. They were being moved to their first foster home. Years later, Jackson remembers the confusion and nervousness that gripped him at that young age.

“At the time I didn’t know why we were being separated from our parents,” he said. “I felt so lost.”

As he adjusted to his foster home, Jackson looked for ways to escape his anxiety. Usually, this meant getting lost in a book. He read whatever he could find. When he had no new novels to devour, he read magazines and newspapers. But Jackson’s favorite genre was fantasy. By reading these books, he could ignore the confusing reality that surrounded him every day. His siblings remained close, despite living in three different foster homes from the time Jackson was seven until he was 13 and graduating from middle school.

His teacher was moved and set up a meeting with Jackson, his counselor, and his current foster parents about a life-changing opportunity.

In school, Jackson was a stellar student, especially in language arts classes. His teachers took notice of his talent, and during his freshman year of high school he was enrolled in an Honors English class. As he moved around over the years, Jackson always returned to his love of reading. One day, his teacher assigned the class to write a personal essay, and Jackson described his life in foster care. His teacher was moved and set up a meeting with Jackson, his counselor, and his current foster parents about a life-changing opportunity.

“My counselor told me about Mercy Home and, at first, I was nervous about being separated from my siblings,” Jackson remembers. “But they told me that my family would be on this journey with me.”

At Mercy Home, we value family in every form. Here, our young people often find a support system that feels like family. At the same time, we care about our children’s relationships with loved ones back home. After Jackson came to Mercy Home, his siblings and parents were also treated with care and love.

Through family therapy sessions, Jackson was able to understand his father’s struggles and grow closer with his siblings. Jackson’s father was referred to addiction support groups so that he could be a better parent to his children and take a step toward a better life.

“After coming to Mercy Home, I feel like I can be the best version of myself.”

Jackson’s therapist also helped him. For years, the instability of his home life made Jackson feel unsafe. He often had outbursts of anger and tearful episodes that seemed to come out of nowhere. He even used to leave class and sit in the hallway as tears streamed down his face. Sometimes at Mercy Home, he would get angry at his peers and lash out with harsh words. But his therapist didn’t give up on him.

In therapy, Jackson was given tools to recognize and control his emotions. This way, he was able to make close friends within our Home and at school. He could focus better in class and had a better relationship with his parents, especially his father.

“I wasn’t so frustrated all the time,” he said. “After coming to Mercy Home, I feel like I can be the best version of myself.”

At Mercy Home, Jackson no longer reads fantasy books to escape. He reads simply because he loves to. Eventually, he decided to write his own stories. During tutoring hours, our staff helped Jackson explore this passion. When he finished with his homework, he and his tutor wrote stories together late into the evening. In the spring of Jackson’s sophomore year, a short story they wrote together was published in the school newspaper!

Mercy Home believes that every child has a beautiful story in their heart. Jackson is proof that the right environment can give a child the courage to share it!

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