"My name is Sue and I have been a Big PAL for almost two years. This is my journey."

Becoming a PAL
First, I put much thought and prayer into the decision to become a PAL. I knew that these kids needed someone who was dependable, so if I signed up for this job I needed to be committed to the child that would be assigned to me.

But I did decide to make the jump and I have never regretted it.

The application process was long and this gave me time to think: did I want to make this commitment? Did I want to take on this kind of responsibility? Did I want to add a kid—and a kid with a troubled history at that—to my life?

I guess my answer to myself was yes, because I went through two interviews and a background check. After getting through that process, the staff at Allendale set up a meeting with the teenager they had matched me up with. Back to Top

Our first visit was on campus, and I was introduced to my PAL on a trial basis. If she did not like me she was not stuck with me.

My PAL was starving for attention and affection, so she was eager to jump into the relationship. After two visits she was ready for me to be her foster mother! She was way too attached.

I talked to staff because this was just not healthy, and I wanted to keep the relationship moving slowly, so that we could build on it. That way my PAL’s connection to me would be on solid ground, not just part of her neediness.

I came to visit once a week on campus. At first I would just come and play cards, or games, or watch a movie. Once I had this great idea that we would put a puzzle together! Well, my PAL did not like puzzles, so this activity did not last very long.

I did insist that she try new things. At the beginning of our relationship I would also make her walk with me.

My PAL was depressed and would sit around and not do much of anything. Having a background in the health care industry, I knew that walking would help her attitude and her well-being. Each time I came for a visit my PAL really didn’t want me to go. So I would stay an extra half-hour if she would walk with me. Now it’s my PAL who requests that we go for a walk. Back to Top

Getting to Know Each Other
As we got to know each other better I started taking my PAL off campus and even to stay overnight at my house.

I remember the first time I took her to the movies: she started yelling at the action on the screen (loudly). After I got over the shock of her behavior I realized that she had probably never been told how to act at the movies. As far as I knew, she had never even been to the movies.

There were things that I would just expect a teenager to know, but I discovered that she had not a clue as to what to do in many situations. I had to look at her as much younger on the inside than she was on the outside. Back to Top

Part of the Family
Now, after one and a half years, my PAL is part of the family. She spent this last Christmas with my boys and me.

They all talked about how I have these high standards and can be very demanding. But they decided they would keep me anyway.

My oldest son loves music, and he really enjoys listening to it with my PAL and talking with her about the groups they both like.

My PAL looks up to my children and in turn my children love teaching her all sorts of things. I think my biggest reward has been watching my children take her under their wing and embrace her as part of the family. Back to Top