Meet Joey

The bottom fell out of my world when I was nine years old. When my mom dropped me off on my godmother's doorstep I felt like a forgotten puppy. I was terrified. I couldn't believe she was just leaving me. What did I do? Wasn't I good enough? How could I be losing everything? I learned later that my mom didn't want me anymore. I had become too big of a burden in her life. I hated my new life even more than I had hated living with my mom.

When my mom did come around, she would slap me. I remember crying and begging her to stop, but she wouldn't. In an instant, I knew that I was on my own. There would be no one to care for me. I had to take care of myself -- make my own rules. I liked it that way.

Meanwhile, the violence that I couldn't stop swirled around me when my mother visited. I watched her and her boyfriend beat each other up. She even stabbed him once! Living with my godmother wasn't any better. She was always verbally abusing me and one time she threw a cue ball from the pool table at me. I lived in a war zone, and I couldn't escape.

I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't keep all the violence I suffered inside. So I began to show the world how angry I was. I was brought to court where they ordered me to go to The House. I had no idea what to expect, but I assumed it would be the same. Adults who didn't understand what my life had been... and wouldn't care if they did. But I was wrong.

The people at The House really cared about me! This was a totally new experience for me and it took me many months to even believe it. I lived in one of the cottages on campus for a while. It was hard when the other kids got to go home for weekends or breaks in the school year because my godmother refused to have me come back. It was one more reminder that my life was different. I was convinced I would never have a family. But I was wrong this time too.

The staff at The House discussed a foster family with me, but I was done. I had been hurt enough. They kept encouraging me – but didn't push me. Eventually, I decided I would give it a shot... but I wouldn't expect much. I began to spend weekends with a foster family. I couldn't believe what it was like. No one shouted. No one hit. It was a new world to me. I couldn't wait to be a part of a family again! They enrolled me in school and I even started playing football! Now, I love sports, and I'm good at them too! I thought I would never be able to say that about anything.

After about a year, there was the biggest gift. The House found my mom and discovered that she had turned her life around. She wasn't doing drugs anymore, and she had a job and a house. She had done all of that so I could come home. We started visiting a little. I was very nervous at first. Don't ever let anyone tell you that people can't change because my mom did—just for me! After a few months, I went home to live with my mom! I can't believe I am writing those words, that I have my own family back. I have a life like other kids now, and that wouldn't have happened without The House.