The Vialva Family

The Vialva Family

Shawnetta and Carlton Vialva with children, left to right: Steven, Asha, Xavier, Adrianna and Aleczander

Hope and Purpose Emerge From Despair | Fall 2011 Spotlight | photo by Brownie Harris |

Shawnetta Vialva remembers that Saturday in August 2007 when life as she knew it began to unravel. A letter arrived from the Department of Social Services reporting that her husband’s twin sons, then 7 years old, had been removed from their birth mother’s home and placed into foster care with Methodist Home for Children.

They spent all weekend wondering what had happened. Carlton had been estranged from the boys and their mother for several years, so he didn’t know what to expect. But on Monday morning, they learned the full story. Xavier and Steven had endured a violent and unstable childhood with their mother. They were in foster care for not the first, but second, time in their lives. Shawnetta and Carlton could apply for custody if they wanted to.

“There was never any doubt we’d take in the boys,” Shawnetta says. “But we weren’t prepared in any way to manage them.”

Xavier and Steven had been diagnosed with attention deficit and post-traumatic stress disorders. When they arrived, they were distraught, disrespectful, undisciplined. They disrupted school and family. Carlton worked long hours and Shawnetta was unemployed. The family was living in a three-bedroom income-based apartment with three other children, ages 3 to 7.

Emotional stress built upon financial stress, Shawnetta says, and the family struggled. But they eventually realized that they didn’t struggle alone. MHC counselor Julie Stone, a licensed clinical social worker, was there to help them equip and rebuild as a family. Carlton and Shawnetta committed themselves to a difficult, intense period of counseling—individual, marital, family—and parenting classes, and they applied each lesson learned to their life as a family.

Today, with God’s grace and much hard work, they’ve discovered they are stronger than they realized. Steven and Xavier are in 5th grade and “thriving in every way,” Stone says. The family moved out of public housing and bought a home in a child-friendly neighborhood. Shawnetta is in college now. Steven has been inducted into a program for academically gifted children. Xavier likes to read.

“Slowly but surely, the boys are becoming what they need to be to make it in life,” Shawnetta says. “They are respectable young men. They know that they have stability. They know their strengths.”

IN HER WORDS … 

Methodist Home for Children works with roughly 300 families in crisis each year. As each household is stabilized, a child’s future brightens in real and measurable ways.

Shawnetta Vialva learned many lessons from Methodist Home for Children and licensed clinical social worker Julie Stone—but two stand out. In her words:

Help is a good thing: I remember when the Department of Social Services told us they were sending someone out to help us. I thought, “I don’t want some social worker coming into my home, telling me what I need to do.” I was always led to believe that having someone come into your home from any government agency was a bad thing. Julie taught me different.

God lets things happen for a reason: MHC opened my family and me spiritually. I now have a whole new outlook on life and what God has planned for us. I remember saying to myself, “Two more kids. How am I going to be able to handle this?” But when I turned the situation over to Jesus Christ, my provider, everything seemed to fall into place. All of our needs as a family began to be met; the stress was lifted because our faith in God was restored through the gift of these children.