A Role I Cherish

Posted on by Gracehaven

By Carrie Rapp
Community Case Manager

 

As a Gracehaven case manager I work with teens impacted by sex trafficking who live in the community. I have many roles: friend, driver, confidante, teacher.

But I was especially touched when “Derek” asked me to be his “family.”

Derek is incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility. For a year and a half I’ve met with him in the facility and talked about his past, his future, and whatever was on his mind. Often he was argumentative, resistant to input and just hard to read. When I tried to encourage him in his ability to make positive choices he would shake his head and say, “No, I can’t change. No, I can’t do it. I’m always going to be bad.”

It’s no wonder he’s so negative on himself. He’s been without a family for most of his life. His Mom and Dad are both incarcerated, and he bounced from one exploitative foster home to another. Eventually he wound up in detention himself. No family member is looking out for him.

So when the facility was having a Family Day, he asked that I come as his family.

I was apprehensive. Family Day is a big deal for these kids. Would every kid have family there? Would Derek feel left out because his family is his case worker?

I was shocked when only 10 kids in the 220-person facility had family there. When Derek saw me at a table waiting for him he beamed from ear to ear.

“This is the only time I've ever gone to Family Day! They have snacks for us, and you get to see where I go to school!"

Derek and I played cards, ate popcorn, walked around the facility, looked at the classrooms where he goes to school and talked about his world. He wasn't left out because I came. For the first time Derek had “family” to celebrate with him. 

Scott Arnold, Gracehaven’s Executive Director, says that survivors of sex trafficking are modern day “widows and orphans.” They’re often forgotten or neglected by society.

That’s why I love being a community case manager. I get to be “family” for survivors, and help them know they are loved and not forgotten.

And that’s a role I cherish.

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