By BRADEN LAMMERS
Carol Compton and her three children are a family that are reconnecting and rededicating themselves to one another.
Family members, who live separately, were chosen as one of this year’s Wish Book families. Michael, 15, and Robin, 12, are living at Childplace in Jeffersonville, while Matthew, 10, lives in foster care. And Carol, who is living in Jeffersonville, is trying to find a place to get the family under one roof again.
That effort is what prompted Carol’s caseworker Samantha Kinman — who has been working with Carol for about five months — to nominate the family for the Christmas charity program.
“I feel like she works very hard for herself and for her kids,” Kinman said of Carol. “She’s constantly on the move. I feel like she needed and deserved for that to be recognized by someone.”
Carol was honored, but initially reluctant.
“I said there’s got to be somebody that’s more needy,” she said getting choked up. “[Kinman] said it’s just for people that need help. It’s so unreal that people are willing to help.”
The family ended up getting placed in separate homes due to several factors. One of the issues was that Carol said she was in an unhealthy relationship.
“It was holding me back because I didn’t like life,” she said. “I didn’t like being home. It was constant fights. [There was] no teamwork at all. I think we all just pretty much gave up.
“There were behavior issues [with her kids]. One thing led to another until things ended up where they are. [But] you realize you can’t give up.”
And it’s not just Carol that is working to be a family unit again.
“I think they realize it’s on them too,” she said of her kids. “You can tell them a million times that what you do causes an effect for everyone. I think they realize that now.”
Robin said the relationship with her older brother has improved since moving into Childplace.
“It’s better than we used to [be], because me and [Michael] never actually got along,” she said. “Every time we’d come home we’d argue and fight. Now we’re able to sit together.”
“And they rely on each other more now,” Carol interjected.
It was clear after a few moments that Michael — while more reserved than his energetic sister and more talkative than a quiet Matthew — acts as a protector to his younger siblings.
He added that he tries to help his mom as much as he can.
And the family relishes the time, although usually limited to three times a week, that they get to spend with one another.
Robin said she feels very good about getting to see her mom more.
“I feel good about it because a few months ago, I felt like I was never going to see her again, because she wasn’t around and we never got to see her,” she said.
They have been able to go on outings to the Harvest Homecoming festival in New Albany, went bowling and got to walk the trails in Charlestown State Park.
But a lot of the visits, including a weekly family dinner, are at Childplace.
“When we visit we usually go with the flow, play a video game,” Michael said.
“They make me sweat doing those virtual games,” Carol said with laugh, referring to the video game “Just Dance.”
The family also likes to play cards and board games, with Matthew claiming Monopoly as one of his favorites.
But more than anything, it’s the chance to spend time together that is reconnecting the family.
“I’m just happy that I still have them,” Carol said. “I’m very grateful for every minute I get to see them and be with them. It’s very depressing to not be able to tuck your kids in, or hug them whenever they need you — things that you take for granted.”
Carol said once she has a court date in February she may be granted more time to spend with her children. She has a series of goals to reach, and if the court deems that she is meeting all of the criteria she said she’ll be granted more visits, which will increase to overnight and weekend visits.
“It’s making sure that ... every [goal] is met so that we don’t fall back into what has happened,” she said.
In the meantime, Carol is searching for housing in Jeffersonville where she and her children could all eventually move back in together.
Until then, the family is thrilled to be spending the holidays together, with the help of Wish Book.
“It’s not something that happens every day,” Michael said.
HOW TO HELP WISH BOOK FAMILIES
• The News and Tribune and New Hope Services Inc. are again partnering to help families in need this holiday season.
The easiest way to give is a financial donation; our goal this year is $6,000 to help out a family in the area. Donations of money or items can be dropped off at New Hope, 1302 Wall St., Jeffersonville.
Call Angie Olson at 812-288-4304, extension 342 for more information. Look for two more stories on Wish Book families in the weekend edition.