Short, sweet, and straight to the point. That’s how Felicia Johnson responded to the question, “How do you feel about living with Tom and Debra Cook?” Felicia has lived with the Cooks for eight years now, but her journey with DePaul and with the Cooks began much earlier.
At 8 years old, Felicia entered DePaul’s Treatment Foster Care program. She found a safe, loving home and thrived. But then she was nearing 21, the age at which youth in Virginia must leave the foster care system. She needed a new safe, loving place to go, so Felicia transitioned to DePaul’s Developmental Disabilities program. Group homes were provided to her, but they did not fulfill her needs. That is what led her to living with Tom and Debra, who had been DePaul foster parents before becoming compassionate caregivers in our Sponsored Residential program.
“I always had a heart for helping people, and we just wanted to give love and support that they could not get at home,” said Debra.
Felicia knew the Cooks through church and decided they were the right home for her. When Debra got the call that Felicia trusted them enough to care for her, she was overwhelmed. Retelling that moment today, she still gets emotional.
“It’s remarkable, that’s all I can say,” said Debra. “For someone to ask to come live with us, the feeling of that … I can’t even describe.”
Debra did hesitate about the move for just a moment. She knew Felicia’s family of origin from which she had been removed as a child, making everything more complex and complicated. But hearing that Felicia, who just wanted to be loved and supported, believed they were the best fit for her erased all doubts.
In their years together, Felicia and the Cooks have grown extremely close. Felicia has been respectful of the healthy boundaries they’ve established, and they have given her love and a chance to be herself.
“She’s very caring and considerate of others,” said Debra. “She has been a joy in our home. We have our moments, but she’s been a joy.”
Years ago, Felicia and the Cooks took a leap of faith together. Today, they know that leap has changed all their lives for the better.