Children's Home

. 5 min read

From the Fall 2013 Susquehanna LINK, page 7, a story on how our United Methodist Home for Children in Mechanicsburg has changed one life, the life of Michael Ross. This is one example of how we are better together! Our Shares of Ministry make a tangible difference in our world:

My day started out as usual. I got out of bed after hitting the snooze button one too many times. I got myself dressed, ate a quick breakfast that I prepared myself, grabbed my bookbag, and went off to school. At nine-years-old this was normal. I was doing this on my own, things that a nine-year-old should not be doing by himself without any adult supervision or direction. But in my neighborhood in York, that was common. Most kids my age were doing things on their own without adults around.

While walking to school, I wanted a snack to eat during recess, between kickball games. So I stopped with three dollars my pocket and picked up some snacks. But I took too long in the store, because three dollars at that time was a lot of money for a kid in a candy store. So I got to school a little late.

It was shortly before 10 a.m. that morning when the buzzer rang in my classroom calling me to the principal’s office. I thought, “Hmm, the principal wants to see me because I was late, again, with no paperwork explaining why. “No problem,” I thought. I’d been there before, and I’d soon be back in class. But then a second buzzer message came which said, “Bring your belongings.” Behind me I heard my class, “Oooooooo!”

I didn’t know what to think. When I got to the principal’s office, the principal, the guidance counselor, and two Children and Youth Services employees were waiting to greet me. CYS workers were no strangers to my family. They were in my house at least twice a week, because my family had been deemed problematic. So when I saw them, I thought, “This isn’t going to be quick,” because when they came around it was never a quick meeting.

I was told I would be leaving with the two CYS staff and that I should not be afraid. “All right, let’s go,” I thought. My only question for the adults before me that morning was, “Will I be back in time for kickball?” The look on all their faces said, “No, you will not be back.”

It wasn’t until we were on the highway that I broke the silence when I asked the people in the front seat, “Where are we going? How long is it gonna be?” They fumbled over their words and finally they told me I was going to meet some new friends, some new kids, and that I’d have fun. I didn’t ask any more questions. They talked in the front seat while I sat in the back and ate the bag of junk food I had bought earlier that morning.

After what seemed like hours — but was only 45 minutes — we arrived in Mechanicsburg, at the United Methodist Home for Children. This was a completely different environment for me. There were huge cornfields everywhere. A long driveway flanked by tall dark pine trees. Scary. Four huge identical stone houses.

“What is this place?” I asked. No answer. I was walked into the building and introduced to some people and told this would be my new home, and that I would be living together with other kids my age, and I would be safe.

The question I was asking myself at that point was “Why? What did I do wrong? Why am I here now? Why can’t I go home?” No answer.

I spent the next five and a half years at the Children’s Home over two separate visits. Just prior to my sixth grade school year, I was sent back to live with my grandmother in York, but that did not work out. I was sent back to Mechanicsburg in seventh grade. In my ninth grade year I was placed in a foster family in Dover, Pa.

While at the Children’s Home I did my best to adapt to this new environment, to get along with the kids around me, and to heed the staff who were in charge of me, but we often butted heads. Every now and then I would get to see my mom and grandma, but it was either at the Children’s Home or a weekend visit, but not too often. Every time I saw my mom I would ask her one question alone, “When will I come home?” “Soon,” she said to me, “Soon.” It was never soon enough.

Looking back I now know and understand why I was removed from my home in York. It was not due to anything I did or did not do, as I had thought for so many years. Nothing I had any control over at all. It was an unstable environment for me; unsafe, unfit for me to be there. The courts deemed my mom unfit [to parent]. My dad had been in jail since I was two months old, so I didn’t really know him.

I had a house in York, but no home. I had people I lived with in York, but no family. The UMHC saved me from a life that no child should have to live. There the collective and tremendous efforts of many people impacted my life in a profound way. They gave me opportunities I would have never had growing up in York; meeting new people, going places, doing new things.

While at the Children’s Home I was surrounded by people who genuinely cared about me and my future. People who wanted to see me succeed in life and not just be another nameless statistic. In 2003 I graduated high school in the top 10 percent of my class. I was elected to Student Council. After high school I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, from which I was honorably discharged. I am currently building a personal training business, and I am a proud father of two and a family man.

I live in Mechanicsburg and I pass the Home regularly. I look at the Home and I say, “Thank you,” for the opportunities that I had there, and I thank God for my time there.

I have no regrets in my life, no regrets at all. I wouldn’t change a thing about it or how I grew up. I am grateful for the opportunities I had at the Home, for I know had the courts not stepped in and sent me there I would just be another nameless statistic.

The news will continually show the sad, troubling stories of youth who grew up just as I did in a troubled environment, but sadly, they weren’t saved. With the collective efforts of people like you, support from Christian families, communities, and of course funding, we can save some more. We can’t save them all, but we can save some. I am thankful and blessed that I was saved.