This article was originally published in July 2013, by Rhonda Fisher.
In the six years since T* first came to CPO, she has made tremendous and dramatic changes in her life. Pregnant, living on the streets of Memphis, and addicted to crack, she came to CPO angry, broken and defeated. She wanted to place her baby for adoption as quickly as possible and get back to living life on the streets. But God had other plans in mind. She is now married, parenting two children, and has been clean and sober for years. She credits much of her transformation to CPO volunteers, the transitional home and house mom, and especially… counseling.
CPO offers counseling from licensed professionals to all girls (parenting or placing) as often as needed, for life. Free.
There are a variety of counselors that work regularly with CPO girls to allow for the best fit, with both personalities and schedules. Janey W. is one of those counselors. She’s been working with CPO girls for 28 years… from almost the very beginning of CPO itself! When I asked her how many girls she has helped over the years, it quickly became clear that the only word to use here is innumerable. Janey was quick to point out that she never sees any of the girls as a number anyway. They are way more than just another client to her. “They are people, with pain. I want to give them hope that there is courage to heal. Some girls really get into the process and really engage in the therapy. They do the assignments and readings that I suggest,” and it is clear over time that it helps.
Of course, there are some girls that she sees many times and isn’t able to get through to them, but they are usually fighting a lot more than pain from their past. Girls who come with mental illnesses like borderline personality disorder and oppositional defiance disorder are a special kind of challenge. She says, “They just fight everything, because they’re just looking for a fight. It’s difficult to engage that category of girls, but humor does it, and building a relationship does it.”
Ultimately, Janey just cares about these girls. She explains, “If I can connect, if I can truly understand where they’ve been, and what has brought them to where they are, then together we can walk to a different place.”
T says that Janey is just the counselor for her. “I knew how to manipulate people like Janey. But she saw me coming! She would just look at me, she didn’t even have to say anything. She’d just give me a sideways look with that straight mouth like, ‘Really, T?’ By the third counseling session I knew this lady really could help me. I trusted her.”
Janey is very grateful to CPO for letting her really work with these girls… without limits. She says that in her private practice, she is bound by the limitations of insurance allowances, etc. But with CPO, she can see girls as needed. Sometimes that’s just once a week for a while. Sometimes it’s a two hour session. Sometimes it’s a midnight phone call. Sometimes it’s twice in one week. Sometimes it’s five years after their last session, but something came up. “I’m so glad to see the girls when they come back, and it is such a huge gift– not only to these girls, but to me as a therapist– to not have to start all over again. We can just pick up right where we left off.”
And it’s not just CPO girls that are helped by our counselors. They also meet with adoptive families, and sometimes even adopted children as needed. Isaac began seeing Janey because he was struggling with the fact that he doesn’t know his birthmother, and he never will. His adoption is closed, and will remain that way. He was surprised by how much his time with Janey helped him. “She helped me more than I could ever imagine. When my mom first signed me up to go with her, I thought it would just be an hour on a couch, listening to a lady talk to me, and I would walk out feeling a little bit better. But, I walked out feeling so much better, every single day. It’s like I had a completely new life.”
Both T and Isaac spoke of how counseling helped them with a lot more than the adoption issues that they thought they were going to address. Isaac adds, “She has helped me be nicer, too. One of the reasons I went to her was for being mean. I went to her for the whole birthmom issue, but we ended up talking about… almost every issue I have. Like, from spiritual stuff to social stuff. She’s really great. She works miracles.”
T explains, “I was okay with the adoption portion. I knew that when I was out there doing drugs, that would never be my baby. The first thing we had to address was my drug addiction. I was a hard, angry, bitter crack addict. Just because the crack wasn’t in me didn’t mean that the addict wasn’t still sitting there. But Janey and CPO turned me into a lady. I had to be taught everything. How to go to a store and pay for things, how to dress. They molded me into a lady.”
Janey knows that all these amazing transformations don’t just happen in her office. Volunteers are a huge part of that. In fact, she dedicated Natasha, one of her many books about crisis pregnancies, to the CPO volunteers. An excerpt from that dedication page reads, “In Titus 2:7, Paul states, ‘In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.’ Because of your crucial role in these young women’s lives, I dedicate this book to the CPO volunteers and mentors. You sow seeds whose fruits you will not always be allowed to see this side of Heaven. So, lead with integrity and honor – for, unbeknownst to you, young eyes are watching.”
*The names of the women CPO helps are always redacted for privacy purposes.