Driving Mom McMillan

Larry K. Brendtro & Mark Freado

Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her. ~Urie Bronfenbrenner

She was well past retirement age when she took a job as a house mother in a residential school for troubled boys. Mom McMillan, as she was called, had spent her first career in urban missionary work serving children and families. Now she faced a new challenge with a group of teens placed in care by the juvenile courts. Her success depended on being able to build bonds of trust with these wayward boys. How could she connect with adult-wary kids over fifty years younger than herself? She also was feeling the effects of her advanced age and had difficulty getting around the large campus. Turning these problems into opportunities, she engaged the young people in searching for a solution. 

“Boys, I am having trouble walking all the way to the administration building for meetings, but I don’t want to have to leave. So, I think I need to buy a car in order to get around the campus. But, I don’t know anything about cars, so can you boys put your heads together and suggest what kind of car I should get?” 

The boys huddled, speaking in hushed tones, and, in a few moments, came back with their proposal. “There are lots of different kinds of cars, but we think what you need is something easy to get in and out of—a Thunderbird would be best!”

On her next day off, Mom McMillan had another houseparent couple bring her to a large auto dealership. They returned to campus with a secondhand silver Thunderbird, much to the admiration of the boys in her cottage. And, since her vision was not the best, she enlisted the oldest youth, seventeen-year-old Kim, to be her driver, with others added to her pool of willing chauffeurs as they got their driving licenses. Mom McMillan was able to continue to serve the boys who meant so much to her, and they were able to build a close bond with a caring adult. But what did Mom McMillan understand about the needs of these youngsters in her charge?


Last chance to register!
Rap2grow Training at the Victoria Seminars
April 21-23, 2017
From Lesley du Toit, the co-creator of the well-known 2005 Response Ability Pathways (RAP) training, comes the second generation, Rap2grow! Rap2grow 3-day training draws on positive psychology and solution-focused work to empower adults with knowledge and abilities to respond to the whole kid--rather than react to behavior--and then build on existing capacity and the resources in the ecology to grow “response able” youth.