Favorite

A fragile baby and his sister find a foster home, thanks to Centers for Youth and Family and a big-hearted couple 

click to enlarge FOSTER FAMILY: Jenia and Arzo Johnson with Lindsey image
  • Brian Chilson
  • FOSTER FAMILY: Jenia and Arzo Johnson with Lindsey.

When the Centers for Youth and Family contacted Jenia and Arzo Johnson about fostering a sick 13-month-old baby, they were told he had respiratory problems thanks to his underdeveloped lungs, and was on oxygen. He'd been born 27 weeks premature, so little he fit in his mother's hand at birth. He could not swallow, so he had what's called a "G button," for his gastrointestinal feeding tube. He could not sit up. He also had a little sister, 3 months old. Would they take the children for 10 days while a permanent foster home was found?

Jenia Johnson said she was a bit overwhelmed at the request, since she had no medical training, though did know CPR. But then she thought, "OK, what would I do if he was my child?" She looked at her husband and they agreed: "We said we can do this."

The Johnsons, who have fostered around 60 children since their first work with the Centers in 1993, picked up Richard and Lindsey (not their real names) from Arkansas Children's Hospital. Both babies had been abused. Richard had fractured ribs, a fractured thigh, a fractured finger. Lindsey had fractured ribs. The respiratory therapist explained how to use the machine that monitors Richard's pulse oxygen, with a little band attached to his toe. Then the Johnsons took the babies home, becoming part of the Centers' Therapeutic Foster Homes for the medically or emotionally fragile.

"We were on pins and needles," Jenia Johnson said. A beep that told them Richard's pulse ox was low went off several times in the night and either Jenia or Arzo would go in and check on him. If his oxygen was too low, off they'd go to the ER. Once he was so sick that Children's transported him by ambulance from one of its own clinics to its emergency room.

The children have now been with the Johnsons for 10 months, not 10 days. When Centers tried to find a permanent placement for the siblings, they could only find people who wanted Lindsey, but not her ailing brother. The Johnsons have agreed to keep them until they can be fostered together, rather than split up.

Both Arzo and Jenia are 53 years old. They have a foster son, 12, and an adopted son, 13; taking care of them along with an infant would be a lot of work with a well child, much less a delicate baby and his little sister. But the Johnsons want to help. They are "comfortable," Jenia said, and she can stay home. (Arzo works as an absconder agent for the state; he was the agent who urged the state not to release Darrell Dennis, who after he was freed was charged in the murder of an 18-year-old.) The Johnsons live in a large home in Otter Creek that was the cleanest house this reporter has ever stepped inside, with sweet decorations in the nursery and a little Christmas tree. They have adopted four of the children they have fostered over the years.

"It takes two mature people to render services to these children," Jenia Johnson said. She did not criticize Richard and Lindsey's mother, saying she was too young and had no support system. "I am so glad I have a community of support," Jenia said.

Her "team," as she calls them, includes therapists for the children from both the Department of Human Services and Youth Home, and therapeutic day care for Richard, where he receives speech and physical therapy at the Kids First program of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. They have case workers and the staff at Children's have been a great help: "They don't look at me like I am out of my mind" when Jenia takes Richard in because "he doesn't look right" and she wants their advice, Jenia said. They have a large van to drive the kids around. Arzo's parents lend a hand; his mother also fostered children.

Richard has thrived under the team's care. He no longer uses the G Button, but can drink Pediacare and eat pudding and he can hold his spoon. He can now sit up. He can say "ball" and "baby." Little sister Lindsey has a bigger vocabulary — but, of course, she is a girl.

"It keeps you on your toes," Jenia said. "I feel as though I'm doing something, making a difference."

The Centers for Youth and Family Therapeutic Family Homes Program is run from the Elizabeth Mitchell Children's Center at 6601 W. 12th St. Leah Williams is director. Centers also operates the Elizabeth Mitchell Adolescents' Center, a Youth Emergency Shelter, offers day treatment in North Little Rock and is headquartered at 5905 Forest Place, where it does outpatient counseling and operates a parent center. The therapeutic foster program allows for some reimbursement for travel and medical care from Medicaid. Centers also has programs in Monticello and Eudora.

To donate to or find out more about the Centers for Youth and Family and its Therapeutic Family Homes Program, call 666-8686 or 888-868-0023.

Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

Most Shared

  • Hutchinson's dilemma same as Beebe's and his GOP affiliation doesn't help

    Ernest Dumas writes about the difficulties faced by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in matching the achievements of Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, even though he, like the majority of the legislature is a Republican. In short, Hutchinson needs Obamacare money, though his party rests on a foundation that hates Obamacare.
  • Visionary Arkansans 2015

    They make an impact.
  • Brantley: South toward home

    A two-week cruise from Vancouver to Alaska was nicely timed for the August heat wave. It dipped into the 40s during my visit to the Hubbard Glacier, loudly "calving" with mighty booms of cracking ice. Here's a brief politically tinged travelogue.
  • New York Times fails again

    If one were of a low and suspicious nature regarding the New York Times' historically inept Washington Bureau, one might suspect yet another example of the "Clinton Rules" — that is, a shaky allegation unsupported by facts.

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »

August

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Visionary Arkansans 2015

    They make an impact.
  • Duggar done

    Also, Holcomb you didn't leave sooner then? Yahweh, 1 – Lord Hanuman, Milligan shenanigans and lost and found, LRPD edition.
  • Snake stories

    The Observer's boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in "Of Mice and Men."
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood hurts Arkansans

    Planned Parenthood provides critical and preventative health care to a lot of low- and moderate-income women and men. Contrary to popular belief, abortion is not the only, or the most important, service provided by Planned Parenthood, and federal dollars are not used to provide abortions.
  • Hutchinson's insurance tweaks

    Republicanizing the Medicaid expansion.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Visionary Arkansans 2015

    • An excellent list. I'm especially happy to read that Rep. Della Rosa will try again…

    • on August 27, 2015
  • Re: A panic button for teachers

    • Look at Ted Mullenix's, former legislator-turned-lobbyistleech, role in this farce. He is lobbyist for company…

    • on August 26, 2015
  • Re: A panic button for teachers

    • How much of the cost is profit?

    • on August 25, 2015
 

© 2015 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation