Serving as a surrogate parent to numerous youth at Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, Lyndsey Wilson is excited to celebrate her first Mother’s Day today. Directing FBCS since 2015, the 30-year-old resides in Cartersville with her husband, Glen, and their 7-month-old son, Reed.
“I think being a mom is one of the greatest blessings yet one of the greatest responsibilities that I have,” she said. “As Reed’s mom, I have the privilege to care for him while instilling values and helping develop his character. It’s my responsibility to ensure he is safe and all of his needs are met, but I also get to walk alongside him, watch him grow and enjoy life with him.
“I’m still new to this, but one of my favorite parts about motherhood has been watching Reed learn new skills. I still remember the first day he said ‘mama.’ I was so excited that I screamed and jumped up and down. I startled him, and he started crying. I was afraid he’d never say mama again! Fortunately, that hasn’t been a problem.”
Looking forward to spending time with her family, Wilson’s Mother’s Day plans include attending church and possibly embarking on a hiking adventure.
“In some ways, it’s hard to believe,” Wilson said. “There were a few years that Glen and I didn’t think we would be able to have our own biological children. I feel so blessed and grateful that the Lord gave us Reed.
“We will be celebrating together,” she said, referring to Mother’s Day. “We are spending some time with my parents to celebrate my mom this weekend. After church on Sunday morning, we will spend the rest of the day as just the three of us — hopefully outdoors if it’s not raining. Reed loves to be outside just as much as Glen and I do. There are so many great hiking trails nearby, and we enjoy exploring them together.”
Wilson joined Advocates for Children’s staff in June 2012. Formed in the 1980s, the Cartersville-based organization assists more than 3,000 area youth and families each year.
Along with operating Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, the nonprofit provides numerous programs that aid in the awareness, prevention and treatment of child abuse.
“I was fortunate to grow up in a home where I was safe and never had to doubt that I was loved,” she said. “This is something all children need, and our hope for the children at Flowering Branch is that this will become their reality one day.
“Until then, I love serving with my fellow staff as stand-in-the-gap parents ensuring each resident of their safety and reminding them of their worth. Our purpose is not to replace their family but to encourage them in mending these relationships and to provide an example of a supportive home.”
Accommodating a maximum of 12 individuals, Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter serves youth ages 8 to 18. Along with children being placed through DFCS, the shelter also provides a temporary home for homeless or runaway youth.
“I think one of the children who really left a mark on my heart was an adolescent female who came to us after a failed adoption,” Wilson said. “She had little reason to trust others given her circumstances, and she had every reason to have lost hope in people. She lived at Flowering Branch over a year. During this time, she made marked educational progress in school, which improved her self-esteem. She met weekly with a therapist who helped her process her past and prepare for her future.
“She had a case manager who attended every court proceeding with her and maintained monthly contact with DFCS to work towards finding a new home,” she said, adding the child also had a mentor visiting weekly and she participated in the SPLASH Bartow in-county mission effort. “… When she was ready, we watched her move into a home where she was loved and cared for as if she was their own daughter. Outcomes like this child’s make all of the hard days worth it.”
In a combined statement emailed to The Daily Tribune News, Kristin Steinberg, FBCS’ case manager, and Dawn Landrum, direct care staff supervisor/personnel coordinator, underscored Wilson’s attributes.
“Lyndsey is a caretaker for our youth,” Landrum and Steinberg stated. “She serves as a parent in ways that many of our youth have never been exposed to before — teaching healthy relationships, giving a listening ear, going to award ceremonies, sports games and chorus concerts. Further, Lyndsey’s top priority is always our kids’ safety and well-being, which is reflected in her day-to-day interactions with FBCS youth and the example she sets to staff. “Lyndsey exemplifies a patient and understanding caregiver, but is careful not to overstep boundaries and ever suggest to our kids that we are in any way replacing their families. Lyndsey’s dedication and cooperation help communicate to our youth that FBCS will always be on their side and will only add to their support system. Her optimism sets the tone for our shelter staff and helps them stay focused on our biggest goal — to return our youth to a loving family and watch them leave with the tools and support they need to succeed.”
Echoing their comments, Wilson’s husband also emphasized her giving nature.
“Lyndsey is a caring and hardworking mom,” he said. “People always said she was like this as a person in general, but to me seeing Lyndsey as a mom makes it evident like nothing else. Just like the people seem to know they can rely on her, I can tell by the way Reed looks at her that he feels this way too.
“I really respect how she is always ‘in the moment’ with Reed. I think Reed can sense how much she cares about him by the way she can set aside distractions and focus on him, even after a long day at work.”