Leighanna sits near her bedroom window. The sixth-grader has been "in too many homes to count" since her biological mother's battle with schizophrenia. Four months ago, she moved in with LaVonda in Bowling Green, Kentucky. "The other places were just so tense," she said. "Here, I like how it's so relaxed."
 Leighanna and LaVonda bake in the kitchen together for a school project. Leighanna struggles with ADHD, and is frequently encouraged to slow down. "Some things you can do fast, but cooking isn't one of them," LaVonda reminded her. "Stop to enjoy it."
 Lavonda uses a cue she and her daughter share, a check drawn in the air, to tell her to "check herself", or to become conscious of behaviors such as being over-talkative. The two developed the signal so LaVonda could remind Leighanna to behave without embarrassing her when they are in public. According, to LaVonda, "it has been very effective, along with the other strategies we've implemented to cope with her ADHD."  
 LaVonda hushes Leighanna, her two grandkids, and another young member of the congregation during prayer at East Eleventh Baptist Church. She says she always encourages, yet never forces, her foster kids to attend church with her. "Three of them, including Leighanna, have been baptized. I love, and they love, the sense of family they feel here."
 LaVonda leaves Leighanna in the library to teach a parenting class. Her full-time profession is working with parents who have lost custody in hopes of giving them the skills to be reunited with their families. 
 Leighanna reads in her bedroom as her mom meets with her case worker and therapist in the living room. Her favorite part of her room is her shelf of books, she says. "If you stacked up all the books I've read, they'd be twice as tall as me."
 While at the dinner table, LaVonda begins to lose patience as she and her daughter discuss her latest misbehavior at school. "Sometimes you have to stop and think, 'is this a good choice for me?, LaVonda reminds the 10 year old as they discuss peer pressure, being responsible, and admitting when you're wrong.
 LaVonda kisses her daughter at the end of a day at home spent by themselves. "Seeing her improvement in the last 4 months is such a blessing to me. Whether she's answering questions on the academic team, physically growing, or just smiling, I can see her needs are being met. I love being a part of this change. This is my purpose."
 Leighanna waits for her case worker to arrive at the door of the Satterfield home. Though Leighanna was LaVonda's longest placement, she eventually left the home.
prev / next