Seen it all. Heard it all.

Iris Herring has seen it all working in a group home. There is pain – with parents who put their own wants before their children’s needs, or kids who can’t see their own worth and potential. But there is also purpose, resolve, and love.

Children come to our group homes when they’re in trouble at school, or running away, or involved in drugs or gangs. They stay for six to eight months, and it is Iris’ job to help them and their families plan for what’s next. How best to get these kids back home, using what they’ve learned, without the bad influences or toxic family dynamics that caused their problems in the first place?

After 27 years in direct care, Iris will retire at the end of August. You can read some of her thoughts and memories here – and please leave her a message at the bottom of the page!

On children we serve:

They need love, just like everybody else. They need to know that you care.

They need discipline. And even though they pretend they don’t want the discipline and the structure – they really do want it. We can hear their conversations in the home. They want somebody to care enough to put a rule down or put some structure and discipline down.

They also need the truth. We found out here they want you to tell them the truth. Whatever it is.

They need to know that you won’t give up on them. No matter what they do, we will always be there. We will not give up. Because a lot of them feel like, “I messed up.” We say, “We’re going to work through this. You’re going to have a consequence; however we are still not going to give up on you.” They need to hear that.

On families we serve:

[Iris works with children and Everybody is the same – they have needs, just like everybody else. They want their children to succeed, just like everybody else.

A couple of favorite memories:

Thanksgiving meals, with families gathered around the table all saying how thankful they were.

And the Easter egg hunt and family fun day – watching families team together to have fun. No one out there is wearing a label, and nobody is worried about who has an offense. It’s just people, just pushing through – trying to get the last seat in the musical chairs. Because they would push you down to make sure they got the seat at musical chairs – it was serious! Then the children in the bounce houses. And grandmamas losing their wigs when they raced in the goofy-wear race. Everybody was laughing. The grandmamas too.

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