When I first came, I hated this place – really hated it. I would cry myself to sleep every night because I missed my family. I’d tell my Family Teachers over and over, “I hate you.”
They’d say back, “I love you.” It took a me a long time to trust they were telling the truth... to believe they really are here for me.
When we first came, we expected the kids to fight us – we knew we’d have that battle – but we didn’t anticipate their hurt. Right after we got here one of our girls ran away, really hurting another girl in our home and we didn’t yet have a relationship to really be able to comfort her. It was eye-opening. We encounter a lot of pain in their lives.
We want to show our girls love no matter what. They will get mad and do or say things... but there is always forgiveness. There is no mistake too big. Sometimes they push and push, but we want to show them they can’t push us away.
Now, this is my family. We do a lot together - watch movies together, go on trips together, volunteer together. We spend a lot of time together as a family, not just each doing our own thing.
We do things that we would do with our biological kids and expect it of them. That’s just who we are.. “I don’t want to” isn’t an option. We don’t go to the movies a lot, or do a lot of “activities”, we do family projects together: we feed transients in Elwood Park, volunteer at Patsy’s Place sending Bibles to women in prison, mow yards on campus to help out... We don’t send our kids to go do it, we do it together as a team.
Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted this kind of family - one that took me places and did stuff with me... that wanted to be with me. I’ve wanted someone to say, “Goodnight,” to me and to tell me they love me.
We want to make an impact by giving everything we’ve got. We keep striving to do better for each one of our girls. When they call and tell us they have a girl and she’s a hard case and might not work out... we have to take the chance. It’s worth it.
I will love on my kids. I never had that until here. I will teach them they have to work hard for what they have and be responsible. I’ll teach them to respect others. I was never taught responsibility and respect before I came here. I’ve also learned about God – I wasn’t a Christian before I came here... I will teach my kids about God. I’ll teach them to receive freely and not feel like they have to “repay.” I’ll teach them to give to others and give back to their community. I’ll make sure they have a real family.
from interviews with JoDee and LeeRoy Cazarez and one of the girls in their home.