A Lifetime of Sharing - Foster Care and Adoption Services
The average American family has two, maybe three children.
But John and Diane Torma are anything but average.
The Tormas fostered more than 70 children over a span of 40 years, beginning in 1969. At that time, Diane, an only child with no children of her own, felt inspired to help children in need. She had always enjoyed being around children – she helped raise her cousins and had been a Girl Scout and Brownie leader.
“I remember hearing about Catholic Charities at church and on TV commercials and decided to get involved,” said Diane. “And boy, did we ever!”
Diane began fostering newborns and has since fostered children two to eight years old, and even one 13-year-old – sometimes two or three at a time.
With that many children came many wonderful memories. They took the children to family gatherings at the zoo, the beach, Fantasy Island, and Darien Lake.
“We enjoyed home movies, coloring, gardening, swimming and just being silly,” said Diane. “We let our imaginations take us away!”
Through it all, John and Diane say Catholic Charities has been like family, and that as much as they have given of themselves, they have received critical support from staff whenever they needed it.
“Times may have changed since we began this journey,” said Diane, “but one thing has always been a constant – and that is the support and care that we have received from the professionals at Catholic Charities.”
Today, many of the children the couple raised still keep in touch, and some are even foster parents themselves.
“Foster care is an undying love we have,” said Diane. “No matter the race, religion or behavior, we were dedicated to our children. And, no matter what it took to love, for a long time or just a short time, we were there for them.”
Turning Lives Around - Tomorrow's Youth Today GED Program
Being a parent of a teenager always has its challenges, but sometimes severe problems arise and parents need support to help their child turn their life around.
For one Western New York family, the turn from good to bad took just three short weeks. Timothy and Maripat Downey saw their son Matthew’s life make a turn for the worse when his friends left town during his sophomore year of high school. Matthew got involved with a new group of friends and subsequently got involved with drugs.
Matthew struggled with drugs for the next six years of his life, while his parents enrolled him in numerous programs and services to try to get his life back on track and out of the shackles of drug use.
“We tried many services and nothing worked,” said Downey. “We tried everything and lost a lot of money in the process.”
Eventually Timothy and Maripat convinced Matthew to get his GED (high school equivalency) through Catholic Charities’ Tomorrow’s Youth Today program, and that’s when his life began to turn around.
The program worked – Matthew got his GED, and now lives and works in New York City, plays percussion in a world music group and plans to attend college in the fall.
“What affected him was the program at Catholic Charities,” said Timothy, “The Tomorrow’s Youth Today program made the difference in his life. It reached him. It contacted him, and none of the other programs did that.”
A Former Recipient Gives Back - Ladies of Charity
Catholic Charities is celebrating 85 years of service this year, and there are people in our community who remember more than half way back to our founding in 1923. Specifically, one woman remembered a time when she and her family were in need and Catholic Charities had responded.
Fifty years ago, she and her husband could not afford to purchase a First Communion dress for that special day for one of their six girls. The Ladies of Charity provided. This small but significant deed was never forgotten. The mother of that First Communicant remembered what it meant to her and her daughter.
Last fall, when she saw in her church bulletin a need for toys for teenagers for Catholic Charities’ Christmas effort with the Western New York Holiday Partnership, she wanted to give back. So she responded and sent a check for $100 to the Ladies of Charity to ensure that the wishes of other children would not be dashed and they would find joy at Christmas.
Bringing a Mother and Son Closer Together - Multisystemic Therapy
Catholic Charities’ Multisystemic Therapy (MST) changed the lives of a Cattaraugus County teenager whose rebellious attitude got so severe he turned to drugs, and a mother who learned how to communicate with her son better.
Jim* was 15 when he began using drugs. Prior to working with Catholic Charities’ MST program, he was high-strung, angry and refused to go to school. His mother felt like she had lost him completely, until the Catholic Charities counselor stepped in.
“He didn’t go to school, he was always angry, screaming, fighting, and hollering,” said Jim’s mother. “I thought I was going to crazy until you walked in.”
The counselor got Jim involved with the sports he used to enjoy and Jim found a new passion – theater. He and his mother are now living in a more harmonious place – they look to the future and what’s to come, as opposed to focusing on the past – and both believe that this is just the beginning of their success.
“We learned how to communicate better with one another,” said his mother. “The major thing that changed our lives is that we look to the future. I mean, we don’t think about the past so much, we look to the future. That allows us to keep going and get better.”
The MST program helped rebuild the trust between a mother and son, and brought them closer together. Jim now does laundry, makes dinner, gets the groceries – and brings back the correct change.
“I remind myself where he was when we started and look where we’re at now,” she said. “He makes curfew every night. There are days when he comes from school and stays with me. I’m really happy about that. He used to stay out all night and I would worry – now he doesn’t do that anymore – we have more harmony.”
Rebuilding Families - Multisystemic Therapy
Charlie* was referred to Catholic Charities for verbal aggression at home. He stopped speaking to his father regularly and was failing many of his classes.
“It was very dysfunctional – if I said up, he said down,” said Charlie’s mother. “Our lives were so dysfunctional that we couldn’t even sit in the same room. We couldn’t even have a simple conversation, it was very difficult. Going to MST got us on the right track.”
Catholic Charities helped rebuild Charlie’s relationship with his mother and then added his father back into the dynamic. The MST program strengthened and improved the relationships at home, and Charlie is now working for his father in a full-time capacity.
“He’s more focused now, he’s not a rebel,” said Charlie’s mother. “He tries to look at two sides of an issue instead of just his side – he really tries to look at the whole big picture now. He knows how tough life can be. He now works full-time for his father and they have had no problems working together or getting along.”
She continued on to emphasize the value of Catholic Chairites’ MST program and to urge parents who are in a similar situation to reach out for help.
“Anyone in dire need with their child and the parents are struggling,” she said, “they really should get a hold of MST because it is the first step to getting him in the right direction. It was the best thing that we ever did.”
Coming Together When Growing Apart - Marriage Counseling Services
Building a strong relationship takes patience, confidence, understanding and sometimes a little nudge in the right direction.
After seven years of marriage, Janet* and her husband hit hard times when he lost his job and went back to school full-time. With a young son and a daughter entering her teen years, their stress levels rose and Janet and her husband began to grow apart.
“Looking back now, it’s easy to see why I was stressed and why our marriage was stressed: job loss and fear of what comes with that, a young active son, pre-teen daughter, blended family and financial worries,” said Janet.
At first the couple was hesitant to enter into counseling, believing that the word “counseling” itself was negative and showed weakness. However, their dedication to each other and to their children pushed them to seek help.
Janet first decided to seek individual counseling with Tammy Stafford, Social Worker with Catholic Charities’ Batavia office. “I felt like I was on the verge of losing it. I thought it was just me, unable to handle the pressure of life,” she said.
After meeting for individual counseling, she realized her husband should attend marriage counseling with her, provided by Eric Dryja, Social Worker with Catholic Charities’ Batavia office. After realizing that the couple was gradually separating, Eric facilitated several in-depth learning sessions.
“We realized that in life we are going to have issues, but it’s how we deal with those issues that matter,” said Janet.
The couple was given the tools they needed to work through problems and cope with future issues. Janet said how great it was that Catholic Charities had a location in Batavia, where she presently resides.
“I believe that, because of our two Catholic Charities social workers, Tammy and Eric, we have become better people individually, as well as a stronger family unit,” said Janet.
Looking to the Future – Multisystemic Therapy
Many parents and children alike, look forward to what the future may hold.
But, for one mother and son in particular, they looked ahead with fear. Their future didn't hold promise or hope, but rather, uncertainty.
Sarah's* son, Joe*, suffered from mental health challenges. Joe had been expelled from several schools due to his inability to control his behavior and Sarah, a single mother, had lost three jobs trying to cope with her son.
"So many people in our lives had given up on us all together, my friends and family felt that I lacked the right skills to deal with a teenager," said Sarah.
Sarah and Joe's lives started to improve immediately, after they made a call to Catholic Charities. They were referred to Catholic Charities through a county program they were enrolled in, but were not making successful strides. Sarah and Joe started working with a counselor from the Multisystemic Therapy (MST) program through Catholic Charities – a program that taught Sarah how to communicate with her son and worked with Joe to appreciate and respect his mother.
"The MST program has been instrumental in helping my family recognize our weaknesses and depend on our strengths to work on the skills we needed to improve upon," said Sarah. "My son has been in a successful school placement for over six months, and we have re-connected with our family and friends."
Six months ago, Sarah and Joe didn't know how they would get through each day. Now, not only are they making great improvements each day in their relationships, but they are looking forward to what the future will bring them.
*Names are changed to protect confidentiality.