Sean has been waiting his whole life to fit. At 6’9” it’s hard for Sean to fit into clothing, a bed, or fit his knees under a desk. He was removed from his home at age 5 and has had to learn to fit in at a different home or treatment center nearly every year since. Now, at age 20, living in a Third Way Center foster home Sean is learning what most of us know by a very young age: how to exist in a family unit. He’s found a woman he’s chosen to call Mom and peers he can interact with as brothers. He’s found a family where he belongs.
Sean came to Third Way Center in 2009 and has traveled through our continuum of care, living at our Lowry Campus, Pontiac House, Lincoln Street Supervised Apartments and now in a Third Way Center foster home. He learned many skills while living in our therapeutic residential facilities: hygiene, cooking, dishwashing, laundry, and most importantly, justice for his past abuse. But he still lacked some important relationship skills, making foster care a great “last step” before emancipation. Located in Jefferson County, this five-bedroom suburban house is home to four teenage boys who are all in the foster care system. Foster mom Katie lives there 24/7, 365 days a year and cares for the boys. They are a family.
Sean literally fits now. He proudly states that he has “the longest bed in the state of Colorado.” Sean is studying business administration at Community College of Denver (CCD) and he can finally complete his homework in comfort, thanks to a taller, custom-made desk and chair Katie purchased for him. Katie has helped Sean transition into a young man with a new, more grown-up wardrobe that fits his frame and a new, stylish haircut.
But fitting in physically was only half the battle. Growing up in institutional and ever-changing settings, Sean has a lot to learn about fitting into a family. Families tease one another, they play pranks. In a family you don’t have someone monitoring every single move you make; you can grab a snack without asking permission, you can have food fights or water fights and not be punished or charged with a crime. You do chores, dye Easter eggs, and play putt-putt. Sometimes you fight and sometimes you have fun. In a family your mother is not a staff member, she sees you every day and she gives you hugs. In a family you learn fundamental skills about love, trust, integrity and responsibility. At 20, Sean is learning.
Recently, Sean asked Katie if he can call her mom, his first in 15 years. He’s come to understand that the teasing from his three foster brothers is part of normal family life, and he even dishes it out once in awhile! Like most families, the boys will prank each other in fun, but will stand up for each other in an instant if someone else dares to pick on one of them.
Katie is proud of Sean in how he has “overcome a lot and is thriving.” Sean will always have the Third Way Center staff and community who care for him, but now, thanks to our Foster Care division, he also has a family where he fits.