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Paulina's Right at Home

May 4, 2009

By W. James Edminson

The rain is coming down hard. Paulina darts from the van to the back door of Huffman Cottage and slips inside safe from the storm. She has spent her Saturday working at a local restaurant – she is saving to buy her first car.

Eighteen-year-old Paulina has lived at Baptist Children’s Homes’ Mills Home in Thomasville for almost three years. Although she has had a few opportunities to leave, she has decided to remain. BCH has been the refuge Paulina needed as the storms of her family’s life swirled around her uncontrollably.

The fighting at home sent Paulina seeking refuge at her friend’s house down the street. The arguments between her parents were becoming more frequent and more disruptive. This time was worse than ever.

“I was so unhappy,” Paulina remembers. “I spent all my free time with friends. I didn’t want to be at home. My parents were tearing my world apart.”

Paulina’s parents knew their problems were disruptive. After a friend recommended they call BCH, they decided to seek help by utilizing BCH’s 60-day emergency care service. The time would give them the opportunity to work on their extreme problems. It would give Paulina a place to live away from their chaos in the meantime.

With little notice, she was asked to pack a suitcase and was driven to Mills Home. Here she found caring child care workers who would listen. She talked to them about things she couldn’t talk about to anybody else. She found a place where she felt safe.

Divorce and continued strife between her parents led to more permanent plans at BCH. Paulina went from emergency care to a long-term residential cottage.

“I was angry,” she says, “but for the most part I felt at home – it was better and easier.” Paulina credits BCH child care workers Sonya and Bobby Dalke for helping her make the best of her new life. “They always encouraged me.”

Paulina had never experienced someone like Mr. Dalke. Although she has a father, Mr. Dalke was a very different father figure.

“He was firm; you could even say tough,” she says. “He was strong, but he could talk to me and get through to me.”

It was through the Dalkes’ guidance that Paulina accepted Christ as her personal Savior. “It was really cool,” she says smiling. “I felt I could open up and trust people more after that.”

When Paulina first arrived at Mills Home, resident and close friend Amber helped to keep her straight. “She kept me moving in the right direction.”

After accepting Christ, Paulina stepped up for the other girls. “I began to understand more,” she says. “I was determined to be the role model that Amber had been for me.”

Last year, Paulina was one of the first girls admitted into BCH’s new transitional living service at Huffman Cottage. Transitional living allows a resident the opportunity to focus on the skills he or she needs to live independently.

“I have more freedom,” she says, “but I also have more responsibility. It’s up to me. I prioritize. It’s a great learning experience.”

Paulina’s days are spent looking forward to graduation. She plays soccer and loves to run track. This year she is one of the captains on her high school soccer team.

She has been accepted to a couple colleges but plans to stay close to Thomasville and attend the community college. She is hoping to earn an associate degree in physical therapy and then transfer to a four-year college to receive her bachelor’s degree.

“Being at Mills Home has been about me,” Paulina says. “My parents were fighting their own battles with each other. This was about helping me. I am grateful to have had a place to retreat and feel good about me.”

Although Paulina loves her mother and father, she has found an extended family where she feels at home.