As the leaves began to turn color last autumn, the Smith children arrived at Tamassee DAR School. As expected, all were frightened and confused by recent events and at that time in their lives, needed the love and comfort of one another as they adapted to their new environment.
There is a push at Tamassee DAR School to move toward a sense of normalcy for those youth in our care. A child living with his/her own siblings gives them all a greater sense of familiarity in their placement and allows the staff to address, not only individual needs, but the needs of the sibling group as a family unit. Providing relationship cottages is an attempt by Tamassee to give brothers and sisters a chance to heal as a unit and to face the future having conquered their past together.
Tamassee Residential Officer Chad Wayne explains, “When the students win – so does society as a whole. Tamassee’s goal is for children in care to live with stability and nurture, and this is one more way that we can support children and families to be more successful.”
New York Cottage teaching parent Miss Carrie was excited when she found out that her cottage was going to be the first sibling cottage at Tamassee. The youngest sister, Suzy, had lived in the cottage with Miss Carrie since their arrival at Tamassee. Suzy is a precocious 8 year old, who likes to be a leader. She was in her element while showing her siblings around their new home and informing them of New York cottages rules and guidelines.
Throughout the first week, the three sisters and brother had enjoyed their time together very much. By the weekend, however, the youngest two were bickering like normal siblings. With the pair now being together in one cottage, we can work with them more specifically on strengthening their relationship.
The oldest sister, Amanda, said she really likes being with her siblings. Being the oldest, her instinct is to watch over the rest, and being so closely involved in their daily lives has provided her with a greater sense of calmness.
On Sunday evenings all the students on campus enjoy a meal in their cottages instead of the banquet hall. The first Sunday in the sibling cottage found the family helping Miss Carrie prepare tacos with all the trimmings. It was a joyous experience as they all sat around the table filled with not only great food, but also good conversation, laughter, and of course, a little teasing.
Amy Wills, the Care Coordinator for this new endeavor said, “I enjoy working with families, and this will give me the opportunity to support our students even more. I am looking forward to seeing more sibling cottages on campus, as Tamassee gives more normalcy to children in situations where they desperately need to have some normal experiences in a safe environment.”
Note: The children’s names have been changed for privacy purposes.