This is an excerpt of a speech delivered by Wellspring CEO/President, Ruthann Howell, at the 2017 Powerful Change Luncheon. Read the full speech, or watch the video, here.
Every family we work with is guided by Wellspring’s incredible team. They forge amazing relationships based on trust and accountability with children and their parents. They understand why children—and even their parents—are acting the way they do.
I’d like to share with you the story of Carlos. He’s a four-year-old in our Early Learning Center (ELC) whose family was homeless for six months and living in their car because his mom fled an abusive relationship. At Wellspring, his mom support to find housing and move forward with her life. Carlos was enrolled in our ELC.
When Carlos started with us, he was angry, confused, and scared. Every day at the ELC was tough for him. He always seemed on the verge of boiling over-and often did. His Wellspring teachers understood why Carlos was behaving the way he did. They spent weeks helping him identify his feelings. The teachers also worked with his mom to provide structure and support at home.
A major breakthrough came one day: Carlos had a massive meltdown in the classroom, His teacher, talked him through the meltdown.
When he was calm, she asked him, “What do you think is going on inside of you? What are you feeling?”
Carlos responded, “I feel like I’m on fire inside of me.”
His teacher asked, “What do you think you could do to put out that fire?”
Carlos gave that some thought. Then he said, “I could get a drink of water.”
In the weeks that followed, with the help of his trusted teacher, working with him mom, Carlos was able to ‘put out the fire’ when his insides started feeling hot. He learned to identify what he was feeling. And his teachers were supportive when he would ask to get a glass of water. Carlos learned that he could control himself.
I’d encourage you to think about Carlos every time you see a glass of water. It’s a powerful reminder of this little boy and his network of support — teachers, therapists, parent educators, housing specialists and supporters like YOU. Together we have found a way to help Carlos put out his fire. It’s a vivid reminder that we can help Carlos find a new path beyond the traumatic effects of homelessness.