For This Family, It’s More Than a Children’s Waiting Room

United WayThe supervised children’s waiting room is a service made possible, in part, by a grant from the United Way for Cortland County.

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The Wolf family clamors into the supervised children’s waiting room at Family Counseling Services. There may not be cool wallpapers or decorations to make it into a children’s only room, but they have come to name it affectionately as such. The “playroom” as the kids refer to it, has become a comfortable and familiar setting for this energetic group of siblings. “They have come leaps and bounds,” said their mom, Leslie Wolf.

But the story actually began years ago with Leslie herself and her own five siblings. “We were in foster care. I was kind of our mom until we were adopted,” she said. “It changed my life when I was adopted.”

Caleb enjoys drawing in the
Caleb enjoys drawing in the “playroom”

Years later Leslie told her mom, “I think this [foster care] might be something I want to do.” Leslie and her husband, Sam, decided to jump in and started taking classes to be foster parents. Soon after, three siblings were placed in their home. “I wanted to take things full circle by providing the same opportunity to these kids,” she said. They had been told the children would need counseling so Leslie started reaching out to see what services were available.

“We had issues. All came with baggage,” she said. “When I called Family Counseling, they called right back. I told them, ‘I need help!’ The kids were having a hard time coping and we were able to get started with counseling right away. First Caleb, and then the others.” Having the supervised children’s waiting room available helped this family on many levels. “Child care gave me a little break. If I wasn’t in a session with one of the kids, I had a quiet moment to sit and read or have a few minutes to myself,” she said.

Leslie emphasized the importance of communication. “Our counselor gave me the tools to help talk with the kids, play with them and interact one-on-one. We’re on the same page as the school and counselor.”
Several years passed. With the support of counseling services, behavior changed dramatically and things improved. “You do what you do to cope, so you can help them,” Leslie said.

Lucas with his Lego fireplace
Lucas with his Lego fireplace

During that time, Leslie and Sam had their own child but the three siblings had become part of their family too and they adopted them all. “I told them you’re ours, you’re not going anywhere,” she said. Though she works part-time, Leslie loves being a mom to this brood of kids. “I’m just a mommy…that’s just me.

“Caleb is the only sibling still receiving services. The kids are playing in the children’s waiting room while Caleb and his mom are in a session. Big sister Charisa helps look out for the younger siblings. Lucas wants more red Legos for the fireplace he is building. She picks through her pile of blocks and hands him all the red ones. Jaden plays beside them in her coral colored dress, “because it’s sort of orange and that’s my favorite color,” she explains. Caleb and Leslie return from his session. Typical mom, she reminds them to pick up the playroom before they leave.

A week later Leslie shares some good news. “Caleb was discharged and he is off meds now,” Leslie says enthusiastically. The circle is complete.