James*, age 6, was worried. He was going to lose his first tooth while staying at The Cottage, Wayfinder’s temporary shelter for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. James had come to The Cottage because his mother, who was struggling with drug addiction, neglected him. Concerned neighbors saw the little boy’s health and appearance deteriorate. His condition worsened during the state’s pandemic stay-home order. They called the police to report their concerns. James came to Wayfinder hungry, confused, exhausted and wearing dirty clothes. He had been through so much.
The Cottage immediately became his safe haven. Social workers began searching for a relative or foster family to care for him. Our Cottage staff made James feel loved. After taking a shower, he received three new outfits plus his own laundered clothes. His eyes lit up when he saw his room with a comfortable bed and fresh sheets. He smiled when a Cottage counselor handed him books and toys to play with. But he wondered if the Tooth Fairy would know where he was when his loose tooth came out.
Our mental health therapist assessed the level of trauma James had experienced. She listened as James talked about his mother and his fear of what would come next.
During dinner with other children and counselors, James exclaimed with excitement, “My tooth!” His tooth had come out. The boy proudly displayed the gap in his smile. But his joy quickly turned to worry. James stopped smiling. Wayfinder counselor Greg Nicholson Jr. noticed right away and asked how James was feeling. With apprehension,
James asked Greg, “Can the Tooth Fairy find me here?”
Greg knew, without a doubt, that the Tooth Fairy would visit The Cottage
that night. When James woke up the next morning, the hopeful boy looked under his pillow. The Tooth Fairy had left him money! He smiled a broad, gap- toothed grin. “She knew it was safe to come here, so she found me,” James said.
Like everyone at Wayfinder, Greg is committed to making life safer and kinder for children who have been abused and neglected. “I believe that even though these kids are in a shelter, we still have to celebrate holidays or milestones like this,” Greg says. “It’s really important.”
*Some details and James’ name have been changed, and stock photography was used to protect his privacy.
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September 2, 2020