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Ben was just so angry all the time. Why would his mom leave him for drugs? Why did his father abandon him when he was just a baby? He knew that his grandparents had meant well, but he still couldn’t help himself from lashing out at them. And now he didn’t even have them.

All these thoughts were raging through his brain as he tried to go to sleep his first night at the Heartland Family Service Jefferson House Children’s Emergency Shelter & Group Home.

“Like most of the kids and teens who find their way to the Jefferson House, Ben didn’t want to be there but didn’t know where he wanted to be,” says Program Director Chris Sewall.

Things didn’t get much better for Ben as he got used to his new home. Not long after he arrived, Ben got into an argument over video games with another kid, and the kid put gum in Ben’s hair. He didn’t get to control much in his life right now, but Ben loved being able to keep his hair long. And now he would probably have to cut it just to get the gum out. Ben was bordering on the edge of tears when he heard a knock at the door.

Chris asked if he could come in and talk. Ben isn’t sure why he said yes, but he did. He let Chris take a look at the gum in his hair as the two talked. When Chris stood up not long after, Ben was surprised to see that he had been able to remove all the gum. The act of service seemed to mean a lot to Ben, who wouldn’t have to get a haircut after all.

“From that day on,” Chris says, “I had gained Ben’s trust, and every day he would come to my office, sit on my couch, and ask me how my day was.”

Despite feeling more at ease at the Jefferson House, Ben continued to feel down about what the future held for him. Holidays were especially hard for him. All of the other kids at the Jefferson House would get passes to go home and see family, but not him. He spent every weekend and every holiday at the house. And his birthday came without even just one card.

When the school year started, Ben decided to try out for the swim team at school just so he could have something to do outside of the Jefferson House. And then he shocked Chris by asking to go to homecoming. By the time spring came around, Ben had built up a core group of friends, most his buddies from the swim team, and he was actually starting to bond with a couple who was interested in adopting him.

Just as his prom plans started to take shape, Ben received word that he was approved to leave the Jefferson House and move in with his soon-to-be adoptive parents. He not only had found his forever home but also would be able to stay in Fremont and continue going to Fremont High with all his friends. Today, Ben is looking forward to graduating and becoming a lifeguard.