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Sisters safe at Kennedy Home

May 10, 2013

By W. James Edminson

Fourteen-year-old Brittany and I are waiting for Brittany’s little sister Ruthie in the foyer of Blackwell Cottage at Kennedy Home.

“I like your camera,” she tells me as she leans on the doorframe leading into the living room. “I’d like to be a photographer some day.”

I lift the camera and snap a picture while affirming her interest. I show her the picture of her smiling face as it illuminates the back panel of my digital 35 mm Canon, and Brittany smiles again.

Seven-year-old Ruthie is changing clothes for her picture. She has been flitting around the cottage since coming in from school, eating a snack in the dining room, and debriefing about her day with cottage parents Andrea and Fred Johnson.

“I love living here,” Brittany volunteers. “It is so much better than at home. It’s so much cleaner. We don’t have roaches here.”

Brittany and Ruthie lived without the necessities of food, running water and electricity. Their parents’ lifestyle took precedence and put the sisters at risk.

Now, Brittany and Ruthie share a room in the cottage. It looks much like any girl’s room. Stuffed animals rest on the made beds. School books spill from book bags on the floor. Pictures of family and friends are on the nightstands. The scene contrasts greatly with their life and their room at home before coming to the Kinston campus.

“I was afraid living at home,” Brittany continues. “My life would be a lot different if I weren’t here.”

Brittany alludes to a cousin’s abuse and her parents’ drug and alcohol use. Growing up, she had endured and had been denied many things. She only recently learned how to wash her own laundry and to tie shoelaces. “I never had anyone teach me things like that. Ms. Andrea taught me to tie my shoes. I’m really good at it now.”

Ruthie arrives in the foyer and we go outside to take photos.

“I love having my picture taken,” Ruthie exclaims and proceeds to pose with Brittany.

I give some direction and start snapping pictures – showing the girls and getting their approvals as I shoot.

“I was a little shy when I first came,” Ruthie informs me. “I didn’t know anyone but my sister, and I was the youngest one in the cottage.”

Then Ruthie talks about the fights her mom and dad had when she lived at home. She says she is at Kennedy Home so that her parents can have time to themselves “to get things straight.”

“The girls are thriving in the stable environment here,” Andrea Johnson says. “It’s calm here and they feel secure and safe now.”

The Johnsons describe the girls as typical sisters. They fuss, but they also come to each other’s aid when needed. They are both doing better in school. Each has had to work hard and overcome some setbacks.

Now, the sisters are hopeful about their futures. And whether they ever return home or not, they are both encouraged by the progress their mom and dad are making toward becoming better parents.

You can help make hope possible for children like Brittany and Ruthie by making a gift to Baptist Children's Homes. Please give online at www.bchfamily.org/givenow to help immediately.