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Tia's Family Finds Recipe For Success

December 3, 2008

By J. Blake Ragsdale

Tia rinses the green beans and pours them into the pot. Her mother Wanita opens the oven door; the aroma of baking chicken fills the kitchen. Tia’s step-father Juan and ten-year-old brother Hunter will be home soon. The mother and daughter work together to finish dinner on time.

Tia’s baby sister, Ana Marie, coos and kicks lying atop the soft blanket on the kitchen floor. As the food cooks, Tia plays with her tiny sibling. Wanita smiles as she watches her older and younger daughters.

Juan and Hunter walk through the door and the family sits down for dinner. Wanita’s and Tia’s efforts are well received and delicious. But the day’s greatest accomplishment has nothing to do with the food. It was the first time in a long time everyone enjoyed being around the dinner table as a family.

For four years, Tia has lived at Odum Home, Baptist Children’s Homes’ residential facility in Pembroke. Before, a harmonious family meal was a challenge.

“I would be angry and upset,” Tia explains. When things at home were not good for her, the teenager found it difficult to express her feelings appropriately.

Wanita also struggled finding the right ways to help her daughter. “It was affecting the whole family,” Wanita says. “We needed help and made the decision to come to Odum Home.”

Living at Odum Home was a big change for Tia. Moving away from her family to live in Odum Home’s Indian Memorial Cottage with other girls her age was a big step. Despite the decision for Tia to live at Baptist Children’s Homes, Wanita made it a priority to be closely involved.

“It was the hardest thing for Tia to come to Odum Home. But as a parent, she’s still my responsibility,” Wanita says. Wanita participates in all the social work sessions and attends as many Odum Home activities as possible.

Tia found help from child care workers like Minnie Nicholas. “I can talk to Ms. Minnie about everything.”

“Tia’s established close relationships,” Wanita says. “The staff at Odum Home is great at understanding each child’s needs.”

Tia worked hard to improve her grades. At first, she attended school on the Odum Home campus.

“I worked my way from the Odum Home school to public school,” Tia says proudly. Today, she is a high school senior in public school where she participates in cross country and ROTC. “Being involved has helped me.”

Through Tia’s hard work, Wanita’s efforts, and the structure and support of Odum Home, Tia is rising above her challenges and the family is meeting their goals. When Tia goes home for a family visit, things are much different.

“It’s taken years for me to get over my anger,” Tia says. “Things are going better. I can talk to my mom about stuff. I think we have a better relationship now.”

With only half of the school year remaining before graduation, Tia is thinking about college and finding the right job. She knows she will soon say goodbye to Odum Home.

“I think it’s going to be a sad moment,” Tia says. “I hope the other girls will say they had a good time with me and that I was enjoyable and funny. I hope they will say I was helpful to them.”

For Wanita and Tia’s family, they have all found the help they needed at Odum Home.

“Odum has helped bring our family together,” Wanita says. “I can’t say enough about them for how they’ve helped us.”