WE THE JUDGES OF TARRANT COUNTY
“We the judges of Tarrant County, would like to acknowledge what a wonderful program the NewDay Services organization has with its FOCUS programs for men and women. This program helps parents understand the importance that each has in their children’s lives,” said Judge Jenkins, Tarrant County Family Law Center.
“We have quite a volume of cases on our dockets and by having NewDay Services offer these programs, they cut down on the time we have to spend on cases where people just need to hear a different perspective,” said Judge Jenkins. “The cases where the parents have participated in the FOCUS classes help them to become better parents in co-parenting, which in turn keeps the non-custodial parent involved and provides the emotional and financial support needed in raising the child. The earlier that the non-custodial parent is involved in a child’s life, the more likely that parent will bond and continue the relationship.”
“I don’t know why I’m in this class because I already know what I need to know about parenting. And I don’t want to be here because I have work,” said the FOCUS for Mothers participant. These were the first words from our fiery client’s mouth as she entered the room the first week of class. She sat there with her arms crossed and her headphones on as she was trying to see what we were about and if it was worth her time. But we weren’t concerned, we saw past her anger and saw that she was in pain, after all, her son had been taken away. The client was quiet for the first few weeks of class until week 5 rolled around, which is when we cover the subject of anger.
It was that week when the client opened up and shared the reason why her son was removed. She shared that she had hurt her son out of anger. Once she even smashed her son’s TV because she was so angry at the time, but unfortunately, she hadn’t recognized that she had a problem, at least not until we addressed such issues in our classes.
She shared that she had been working 3 jobs to distract herself from the emptiness she felt since her son had been taken from her, she simply didn’t want to deal with her emotions. Throughout the FOCUS for Mothers classes, she began to understand that it was time to stop running from herself, the time had come to face the music if she wanted to get her son back. We all rallied around her and supported her by uplifting her and reminding her that she is capable of this and much more! During the following weeks, she shared that she had quit her two other jobs because she realized that she needed to take care of herself (as a result of our class on worth and self-esteem) and this was a big step for her! She shared that she gained the confidence to do so through the love and encouragement she had been receiving from us.
She thanked us for having patience with her and seeing past what she had said at the beginning of class. Fast forward, the client was finally reunited with her son, and she could not be happier! She thanked us for all the love and support we had offered her, “because, without us, she didn’t know if she would’ve made it,” said the FOCUS for Mothers participant.
Called Away From A Meeting
Why chaplaincy? Here is the short answer (Please note this example is from 19 years of experience and not from one particular story). I was sitting in on a meeting when a frantic knock on the door caught my full attention. “We have a person in our office talking about hurting themselves,” said a staff member from the court. After politely excusing myself from the meeting, I was led to the office where the person was sitting with his arms crossed, who clearly was very angry. I invited him into my office where he could be more comfortable. When we arrived at my office, I heard a story of frustration, fear, and hopelessness, followed by tears.
This person was in desperate need of hope, love, and truth. He has been fighting everyone and everything. The world looks like Mt. Everest to him. But a caring ear gave him a little hope. By adding truth and love to the hope tank, I was able to help him calm down. I helped him to come up with a plan, and a precious smile was returned.
Chaplaincy provides the element of hope that is more precious than oxygen because without it there wouldn’t be any reason to breathe. These days we are struggling to keep ourselves above water. It seems like we are drowning without help or hope, and the worst part is that you begin to believe no one cares.
Now, you would be amazed at how far a little love and care can carry someone. A simple act of kindness can inspire change and hope. This is my calling, to listen and be kind to others. This is what the Lord has placed in my heart and through Him and only Him, I will continue to inspire hope through His word.
There are times when I wonder how someone my age comes across to the young teens with whom I work. I’m not in the least hesitant to tell them how old I am. The subject came up in a disarming way during a recent visit with a boy who was being released after a long stay in detention. I asked what the experience had taught him. He said that he had learned a lot about God and the Bible while he was there and assured me that he wasn’t going to forget it when he got home.
He was profuse in his expressions of gratitude to me for spending time with him while he was there. I was basking in the glow of his affirmations when he said, and I quote, "I really appreciate you for coming out here to teach us. Here you are at your age spending some of your last days trying to keep us out of trouble. You may not have many days left and you are using them to help us." I guess it's good to know that my advanced age has some advantages!
“I remember a girl, who had run from home and was frightened by her own crime. You spoke with her before her detention hearings. She practices a different religion, but you helped her with her trauma. The fact that you guys can meet with any child regardless of their background and provide support always helps them feel like they have someone to talk to. Kristi, you are more than a chaplain at Tarrant County Juvenile Services (TCJS). You always have a smile on your face, a listening ear, a caring demeanor, and advice and support at the ready,” said a Juvenile Tarrant County Juvenile Services case worker. “Over the years, I have witnessed you support youth who were worried, stressed, overwhelmed, and in need. You constantly provide your uplifting spirit to both youth and staff. You are the ‘calm’ at TCJS. God’s love and light shine through you and everyone at TCJS are blessed by your work.”
Nancy was forced to relocate to Texas due to a traumatic and abusive relationship. She had been trying to get a divorce from her controlling and abusive husband for quite a while. Nancy had tried to escape her situation, but her then-husband used intimidation and coercion to make her stay.
Unfortunately for Nancy, her ex-husband became more abusive when she found out that he was having an affair. Eventually, she was able to leave but struggled to get back on her feet after her divorce. To heal the pain and anguish she was feeling, Nancy began drinking away her sorrows.
Her despair consumed her, and her pain blinded her from what was truly important, her children. Nancy’s dependency on alcohol had gotten so out of control that she was losing her grip on reality, a reality in which her children were going to be taken by the CPS system.
Now is too late, Nancy thought to herself, everything is lost, there is no way out. But hope remained, and in her darkest moment Nancy chose to live, she chose to stop drinking, and she chose to fight for her kids. Nancy was moved to a Domestic Shelter located in Texas, meanwhile, her children were placed with family members. Around this time, she registered for my online class, but she still had doubts. Who could blame her? After all, the sense of failure loomed over her. So, I reassured her that she was making the right choice telling her that this would be her first step to getting her children back.
NewDay Services offered Nancy, through our Focus for Mother’s classes, weekly emotional support, and encouragement. Nancy checked in with me every week with updates. She encouraged others to find hope through it all. Always positive whenever her children were mentioned. She attended my classes every week and humbly remain a ray of light.
Nancy graduated from my class on time. She was able to find gainful employment, and currently, she is looking for a home closer to her children. Her case is currently being monitored, with the hopes of her children coming home officially in September. Nancy has been blessed with an amazing family and a support system that stepped in when she needed it the most. She has learned so much from this class and still looks forward to learning more. Nancy states: “I don’t know how else to describe it, other than I was finally ready to surrender. I let whatever needed to happen just happen. That level of surrender and willingness has been the key to my success.”
I REPLIED WITH A SIMPLE YES
“I have had the privilege of working alongside Chaplain Kristi Lambert at the Juvenile Detention Center for approximately 10 years now. I have witnessed Chaplain Kristi speak to female juveniles before and after their court hearings, and while they are being held in detention; offering them comfort and words of wisdom. Kristi has also helped me through difficult times when I needed a listening ear and a friend,” said a Juvenile Detention Center co-worker.
“Like any other normal day, Kristi came to my office to say Hello and quickly noticed I was not being myself. She asked if I was ok and I replied with a simple yes… but Kristi knowing me so well, noticed that I wasn’t being myself. She didn’t ask me any questions or to go into details about what I was going through, instead, she just offered to pray with me,” said a Juvenile Detention Center co-worker. “I really needed it… this small gesture from Chaplain Kristi had a huge impact on the rest of my day. I am thankful that the Juvenile Detention Center has Chaplains in the building, because not only does Kristi pray for the juveniles in the system, she prays for their family members and her co-workers as well. Thank you, Chaplain Kristi Lambert.”
“I'm a career criminal, that's what the state told me. But when I came to NewDay Services, they told me I was a person, a father, a dad, a man, and they haven’t missed a beat… they don't look at me as a criminal, or as some bum, or some mark, or somebody weak. They look at me as somebody strong, as a father figure. And everything that's within the reach of this program is something that's already inside of us. All they do is just shine a light on the problem. So, I just hope y'all guys understand that at the end of the day, we all have problems, but just take the time to find a solution because there's no point to having a problem if you can't find a solution,” said Anthony (FOCUS for Fathers’ Participant).
I can tell you now… this will be one of those few days in life I won’t forget. I had spoken to Gary over the phone days prior to seeing him, and although I was looking forward to interviewing him, I was not looking forward to driving all the way to Dallas. I had worked that prior weekend and I was tired, exhausted would be the word I would use to describe how I felt. So, driving to Dallas wasn’t exactly something I wanted to do.
I have seen most of the world, I have witnessed destruction and poverty, and I have seen true hunger in the eyes of a child, and praise be to the Lord of Kings, everywhere I’ve been, I have seen the Lord working in mysterious ways, ever-present through strong men and women of God. But even those faithful men and women, as I, were weary, worn out, exhausted, and drained. They had a look that only one that has been there can recognize, only one that carries the invisible scars can see.
So, I wasn’t expecting much if I am honest. To make it even worst, instead of me asking God to give me words for someone in his situation, here I was thinking of my own problems, which by the way are small hiccups that have come from huge blessings the Lord has given me.
I saw Gary for the first time at a park, behind the Inn where Gary is currently staying with his son. I remember thinking that he didn’t look like someone we would imagine in his situation, and it wasn’t his appearance, it was the way he greeted me, full of joy, he looked like he didn’t have a worry in the world like he knew something I didn’t… or did I and conveniently had forgotten for a minute…?
Here is a man who lost his mother less than a year ago, one to whom he was close and who had stood by him throughout his lowest moments. Three months later he gets his youngest child, who was taken away from his ex-wife by CPS and then from him by the system. Someone who through all this also becomes homeless and unemployed. But despite it all, he holds tight to the peace the Lord placed in his heart.
“I praise Him for the new home that is on the way… I praise Him for the new car that is on the way. We want God to always give us something… have we thought about blessing and thanking God with our lives? This… is what we need to do…,” said Gary Rider. This is a man who is in surviving mode in my view… and he is the one reminding me? How self-center and blind have I become?
After that day I thank God for allowing me to be a part of this man’s life through NewDay Services (NDS). I thank the Lord for reminding me how blessed I am for being able to serve right next to His people, helping those like Gary who are going through hard times get their children back.
Since that day I thank the Lord because my NDS family and I, are truly trying to make a difference in the lives of the children whose parents we serve, and I refuse and will not take it for granted.
One of our FOCUS for Fathers participants, Mr. D, was not having any success in conveying any progress he was having regarding how he was improving his life with his caseworker. Mr. D had complied with all of demands and even went beyond what he was required by taking additional parenting classes and paying for them himself. The poor lack of communication with the Child Welfare caseworker continued, making the process longer which increased the extension of time before he could be reunited with his child, causing Mr. D to experience increased levels of frustration and anxiety.
Mentor Navigator Francisco Hernandez trained Mr. D in how to navigate the CPS system and communicate effectively with the them by presenting formal requests and documenting all interactions, and others involved in his case. Mr. D was also trained in how to draft a document that can clarify misinformation and identify all his achievements and hard work.
After working closely with Mr. D, he was able to clarify misinformation and clearly communicated his readiness and capability to protect and provide a safe environment for his daughter. Communication between Mr. D and Child Welfare caseworker improved. He stated that his Child Welfare caseworker was treating him with respect and that the caseworker became invested in Mr. D's effort of being reunified with his daughter. His visitation time with his daughter was increased and he was allowed to have weekend unsupervised visits. Mr. D expressed how the training provided to him through our services increased his confidence in his ability to work and communicate with Child Welfare caseworker and that he no longer experienced frustration with the process. Finally, after a long process, Mr. D. was awarded Monitored Return. He was able to reunite with his daughter and a few months later with his wife. Our purpose and main goal is to keep families together in loving, safe homes. Mission accomplished!