Photo (left to right): Chatham County, GA DFCS case manager Ms.Ferguson, Director Brown, and Whitney Gilliard loading Comfort Cases into HavINN™
When the swelling went down and the throbbing pain that made the room spun finally settled down, I looked at my wrists and said to myself, "well... here we go again". For the 3rd time I have been arrested and without hesitation the routine went as it has always went:
1. I fought the cop.
2. They charged me with resisting arrest.
3. My foster mom is crying.
4. My case manager whose been pissed off at me for months now needs to find me another placement.
Gosh, the cuffs feels cold... and have I been crying? I can't remember, my eyes feels tired... I wish all the talking would stop.
3 months later after being released from "Juvie", I found myself in a residential facility at Riverside VA. I stayed there for about 6 months. It wasn't fun, it's wasn't a "get well" retreat. I barely felt sun on my skin and I had to ask permission for the doors to be unlocked each time I had to use the bathroom. One day I was talking to a staff member about nonsense while I was watching TV. She asked me "what do you want to do when you get out of here?", I told her " I don't know maybe be a tattoo artist. She laughed a wholesome laugh and said "oh child, I don't know bout that".
Throughout my years of growing up in the foster care system, I heard that very message but in different ways. Sometimes it's said with slang "nah, it aint boutta happen", sometimes it's more proper, " I think you will need to work on a few things first". I outgrew my desire to be a tattoo artist when I approached my college years and I was motivated by my father in-law to look into the field of social services. Even with a degree in my hand that says I majored in "Human Services" with a focus on Psychology, I still found myself handicapped in this world. The "oh child, I don't know bout that", still lingered in my head.
I cannot tell you how often those words stopped me from doing the many things that I knew would help others. It supressed my speaking and my advocacy. After all, i'm just a delinquent from the sytem- and made life hard for everyone. How can I ever make a differerence? It truly felt that being associated with foster care has crippled me. The self-esteem and courage that comes with being a leader of charity was somthing that I never thought I would fathom to do.
Secret: self-esteem and courage aren't the only traits that will change the world. It's your will... to all my brothers and sisters, honey- you already have that and then some.
Today our foundation, Gilliard and Company carried our partner's donations (Comfort Cases) into the building of Chatham County DFCS. We will be launching a new program called HavINN™ that will help my little brothers and sisters cope in a peaceful place, no matter where they are in their foster care journey. No more sleeping in offices. A desk is not a place to rest your head.
Who knew the kid who walked those same steps with no bags, would come back with over 3 carts worth..."Yes Child..but I did."
Living over 18 places has taught me that every child deserves a home. Being a survivor of child abuse has taught me that every child needs to be heard. Growing up in foster care has taught me to bloom where I am planted. Being a mother and a wife has taught me to be resilient. Operating a charity has taught me that people really do want to help. Providing homes for youth in care has taught me that bad days does not mean a bad life. Advocating for children has taught me to be brave.