Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Linda Heitzman is a wonderful ally for foster youth

Readers' forum: Neighbor, mother and Brooklawn trustee:
'Let's be the blessing'
Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 25, 2007, pg. A6.

I am perhaps the first letter writer on the Brooklawn group home who can honestly say that I have a personal stake on both sides:I am a member of Brooklawn's board of trustees, and I live on the street that runs behind Brooklawn's group home.

.. My family has a long association with Brooklawn, and I have been a frequent visitor to the campus all my life.

Since I volunteer to transport Brooklawn residents to appointments, I have the advantage of knowing many of the boys.

Traveling in my personal car with one or two boys at a time, we have been to the dentist, physical therapy, gone for immunizations and have picked out eyeglasses, all without incident.

As a board member for the past five years, I know and respect Brooklawn's staff. They are interested in setting up the boys for success and safety, and I trust their judgment.

The decision by the dedicated body of community leaders who make up our board to open a group home was unanimous and has been part of Brooklawn's long-term planning for some time.

Eventually, these boys will become independent adults, and, in turn, will all become someone's neighbor. By having them together in a supervised home operated by Brooklawn, we will teach them how to become good citizens and contributing members of our community.

Brooklawn's record of success and reputation as a provider of choice for the population we serve are second to none.

As Christ-followers, my family takes seriously His teaching to care for the "least of these." Brooklawn is part of my family history, my faith history and my philanthropic history. It is now poised to become a part of my neighborhood history.

While I can appreciate that my existing neighbors may have fears of the unknown, we all assume risk each time a property changes hands.

No one conducted a referendum as to whether I could buy my home.

If we are honest, we'd admit that inside each home there exists the memory of a shameful secret, a broken heart or a dreadful mistake. The best of people are people, at best.

Some detractors of the group home contend that foster or adoptive homes would be a much better alternative.

I and the folks at Brooklawn wholeheartedly agree, and we have joined forces with Maryhurst to expand their foster care program to serve Brooklawn's children.

Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of foster homes in Kentucky willing to accept teenagers.

The group home is but one of several initiatives Brooklawn is undertaking to create alternative, community-based homes for these children.

I realize I have a 45-year head start on most with regard to my confidence in this project, but it is my fervent hope that human kindness and goodwill can bridge this gap.

Surely, by residing around the corner, I can enhance Brooklawn's accountability to the neighborhood.

As a homemaker and the mother of a 17-year-old daughter, I feel grateful to live among neighbors about whom I care and in the house of my dreams — not so much "wealthy" as blessed.

For those who feel likewise, let's be the blessing to our Brooklawn neighbors.

Louisville 40205


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