Cheryl “Dawn” Barnes

Dawn has been a country mom and wife for more years than she hasn’t. For the most part while my 2 children were young I was a stay home mom and have always felt especially blessed to have had that option. In 2007 I decided it was time to rejoin the workforce and applied as a para at a grade school. The district placed me at Santa Fe Trail High School and I was petrified. I just didn’t see myself as someone that could deal with a bunch of challenging youth. What I discovered was that I had a way of clicking with the “Problem Kids” … Those were my people. I also began working with the special/high needs population and found a special connection there in a young woman with Rhetts Syndrome. I learned more about patience, love, compassion and kindness from her in the 2 years I worked with her than most people learn in a lifetime. I still visit with her from time to time and each time, I thank God for putting her in my life because I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for her. I worked at SFTHS for 3 years before moving to Baldwin where I again spent a few years out of the workforce. In 2015 we were asked to temporarily take in a 16 year old high needs autistic boy who was being removed from an abusive home until they could find permanent placement. We agreed to what we thought would be a 2-4 week placement. 2 years later, not only was he still with us, but we adopted him making him our 3rd and youngest child. In 2020 we were preparing to transition our now 21 year old son into an adult group placement when I felt the need to reach out to … something. I ended up at O’Connell and have a whole new slew of boys to call my own. I firmly believe that without God and love we can not flourish. I focus each day not only on preparing the youth in house 1 for life outside foster care but ensuring that they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are loved and cared about. By God and by Me.