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Mended futures for every family.

Robert Day

A healthy family shouldn’t be a child’s dream.

It’s an honor to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of Five18 Family Services. To explain what drew me to this organization, it might be helpful to share that for years I’ve referred to myself as the Chief Executive Orphan. For much of my childhood I was in and out of the system, placed in many different homes with varying degrees of stability. In the best of times, I felt some sense of normalcy. In the worst of times, I was exposed to things that I believe no person should have to be exposed to, let alone a child. It is my life’s passion and commitment to ensure that children and families are provided the support that I often didn’t have. 

When I first came on board 14 years ago at what was then called Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Home, then later Patrick Henry Family Services, it was a good and effective group home organization. Those homes served a purpose, but a limited one. We served about 40 children at once. Over time, we realized that we were only using one tool in a world that required many. We realized that intervening after the damage had been done was not enough. So we eventually, and intentionally, moved from providing homes of intervention to programs of prevention and reconciliation. 

In my early years here, we provided stable but temporary housing for children who had already been separated from their families. I related to these children. And it pained me to relate to these children. You see, the reason I pursued this area of work was a strong desire to cultivate communities in which no child would have to experience the same struggles of my own childhood. And yet, every day, I’d look into the eyes of children whose pain I knew all too well. I knew it was time to change our approach. Through decades of personal and professional experience, research, and academic study, I found that children are the only agency-free victims of any problem. They suffer the consequences of adult decisions, public policies, and broken systems while playing no part in the cause. The causes of these problems are what we call “upstream.” 

This is what we mean when we say we’ve transitioned to programs focused on prevention. “Intervention” focuses on saving children from unsafe circumstances. “Prevention” addresses the root causes that make the family unit vulnerable to becoming unsafe.

In simplest terms, you could say that we’ve transitioned from child welfare to family welfare. Because in an ideal world, the community surrounding a vulnerable family would step in and support them before any child is made a victim. In a healthy state, relationships and family are the most effective and efficient nonprofits.

This is the foundation of our ministry of reconciliation: We serve children and families in their brokenness, meeting them right where they are to provide hope. We connect with them, face to face, personality to personality, spirit to spirit. We share our strength and abilities to bolster theirs, so they might prevail and thrive. We extend grace, so we may grow in grace…and more clearly reflect the image of our Maker. With the support of individuals, businesses, churches, and agencies within the community, we demonstrate the radical love and compassion of Christ.

Vulnerable kids and families need more than just services or programs that meet them in a moment of crisis. That’s why our “upstream” strategy involves developing meaningful relationships every step of the way. They need people who care to walk alongside them in their day-to-day reality; to celebrate their strengths; and to be their champions for growth, so they can truly thrive.

We move forward with excitement and hope, propelled by the relational ministry of reconciliation modeled for us by Jesus Christ. As a community, we are working toward the goal that by 2030, every child in Lynchburg and the four surrounding counties will be safe in their own family or in another setting with caregivers who are supported by a local faith community. This vision is intertwined with the need to foster sustainability among vulnerable families. No matter what the future holds, our eyes remain fixed upon mended futures for every family.

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