Forever Families: Helping Hand Home
For 125 years, Helping Hand Home for children has been a safe haven for children, including many we feature on CBS Austin's Forever Families. The home is transforming the lives of the children who live there. For some of the most severely abused children in Central Texas, their childhood starts at Helping Hand Home.
"I feel like the fortunate one that I found HHH, or it found me," said Director of Residential Services Chris Janawicz.
25 years ago, Chris started as a cook. "First thing I ever did was cook Thanksgiving dinner for the kids," Janawicz said.
A year later, a 7-year-old boy walked through the door and their bond changed both their lives. "He did not speak for the first week he was here," said Janawicz.
Chris used an approach of care and compassion, that he still uses today. "As he learned that we weren't going to hurt him, he started to come out of his shell," said Janawicz. "He said something to me that hit me here. He said you're not going to hurt me are you. I said never. It started right there."
The boy became a man and passed on the healing he received at Helping Hand Home to help other trauma survivors.
"To go from despair to hope," said Executive Director Ted Keyser.
Keyser understands. He was also adopted. "What's wrong with me? Does anyone care about me? Does my life matter? That's what these kids are thinking," said Keyser.
The home has gone through a century of change. It's now a model others try to replicate, with a sensory gym, therapeutic and medical care and an on-site school. "To see a smile start to emerge and see them become children again," said Keyser.
It's where many of the weekly CBS Austin "Forever Families" children live. CBS Austin reporter Lindsay Liepman reunited with Kanzes who was playing in the court yard. It had been six months since her segment aired.
"I'll never forget you Kanzes. You know that," said Lindsay while hugging the girl.
Kanzes had a new hair-do and grew a few inches. She's thriving but she's also still waiting. "They need to be here where we can support them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it's a blessing to watch them move through the program and join a family," said Keyser.