“You can drop me off here!” Ricardo looked at Lauren Neal, Lighthouse Children’s Home staff, with a huge smile. Lauren watched him walk to the house just ahead, ensuring his safe arrival. Ricardo’s confidence and excitement at arriving to his new foster home allows Lauren and the Back2Back staff to feel assurance this is the right move for Ricardo.
Ricardo, a 21-year old with developmental disabilities, has been at Lighthouse Children’s Home for 9 years. As he aged, staff realized a more permanent home would only help Ricardo thrive. In 2015, Lauren and Back2Back staff researched local boarding schools catering to children with special needs. “We went through a couple interviews, and while we never received a no, we weren’t ever told yes, either,” explained Lauren. “We didn’t want him to transition into a home with an institutionalized rhythm because that wasn’t how Ricardo had grown up.”
Staff continued searching and praying for a school that would meet Ricardo’s needs while providing a safe, familial environment.
Ricardo has always had a strong connection with the Lighthouse staff; Mama Odette, his caregiver, has always been a motherly figure to him. “The entire time we were looking at options for Ricardo, I kept thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could find a family to care for, and grow a connection with Ricardo, the way Odette does?’ I mentioned this to the staff psychologist and she suggested we ask Odette about her son’s family,” shared Lauren.
Lauren prayerfully approached Odette and presented this idea for Ricardo’s new living arrangement. Odette smiled and said, ‘There is no one else I’d rather see Ricardo with thanmy family!’”
Short weekend visits began, allowing Ricardo to get to know this family and acclimate to their home and rules. Slowly the overnights turned into week-long visits, and when he returned to Lighthouse, Lauren saw a new life in Ricardo.
“I believe he has always felt loved and valued at Lighthouse, but when he was brought into the fold of Odette’s family, Ricardo became more alive,” explained Lauren. “It was a joy to see him more animated and full of laughter. You could see a confidence and self-assurance growing.”
Preparations are being made at the home so there is enough space for everyone, and goats (whose milk will provide a source of income) are being offered to the family to help them financially. Ricardo excitedly asks how soon until he can return to live permanently with this family.
Join us in praying for a smooth transition and that Ricardo would feel loved and cared for, and full of excitement just as he is now.