REACH of Louisville Family: Tate Griffith

Tate Griffith brings sunshine into the lives of all who meet her.

Just walking into her home brings a smile to your face.  It is warm, colorful, fun, and inviting – the kind of home where every knick-knack has a story, and Tate is their curator.  It doesn’t take long to discover that each story begins with family.  In fact, her family is all around.  Not in person, but in every aspect of the home from the collection of family photos proudly displayed on the living room wall to the collage of memories on the breakfast table.

Tate has been a member of the REACH family for over ten years.  She discovered REACH of Louisville through her former neighbor who was one of REACH’s first families.  It came as no surprise that Tate incorporated her neighbor and their REACH individuals into the scope of her family, “I helped [my neighbor] out when needed.  My kids started getting married and moving away, and I started thinking this is what I wanted to do.  My mother was in foster care as a child, and it was a very sad situation.  It was always hard to hear her stories.  So I kept thinking, there has to be a better way!  You always hear horror stories about foster care, but if we get together, we can change that.  I started with one, and now have two.”

Tate took in her first individual, Greg, over ten years ago.  More recently, she added Michael.  Both individual’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.  Both Greg and Michael are the same age and Tate says they get along like brothers, “If one is questioning me, they will confide in each other and communicate with me if the other is upset.”  We asked Tate how she was matched with her individuals, “REACH knows what I expect and what my rules are. They know what my strengths are.  I am very particular about matching because if the match doesn’t work out, that’s just another rejection in [an individual’s] life, and they’ve had enough of those.  REACH will call when they think they have an individual that will match well.  I think that’s one of their strengths, they know.  REACH knows my grandchildren and the whole family.  We want to make sure that we can incorporate individuals into the whole family.”  Tate continued, “I heard about Michael from a girl that had him through another agency.  So I called REACH and told them to check on him.  Shep talked me through the pros and cons of taking him in.  Shep had done a lot of research on Michael and wanted to make sure the match would work.  So we met a few times, and really talked it through before making a decision.”

We asked Tate how REACH fits into her family unit.  “It is a big family!  All the REACH families are so close, and you know you can call them and ask for anything you need without hesitation.  Everybody goes that extra mile for each other – the staff and the families. …  When my husband passed away, REACH came to pick up Greg.  They took over immediately so that I didn’t worry about him.  REACH made sure Greg and Michael were able to come to the funeral – the boys needed to be there. …  REACH is always just there.  I never have to wonder, ‘What am I going to do?’  The thought never enters my mind because I know, one way or another, somebody is going to be there. Whoever said it takes a village – it takes REACH.  REACH is the village!”

Clearly Tate Griffith’s definition of family goes well beyond the boundaries of a family tree.  We asked for Tate’s input on the benefits of the family support model, “The main thing I notice is the trust [individuals] start to show.  When they start trusting a LOT of their anger issues seem to just melt away.  They find different ways of expressing themselves because they see around here the different communication tools that we use with each other, and it is a better way of life than they’re used to … and they want that.  As they grow and you give them that pat on the back for reaching a goal, they get such self-esteem that it really alters their whole being.  The more they feel accepted, the more they give back.  It’s like you see them take a big breath and say, ‘I can do this.’  Their walls come down, and you can see the change on their faces.”

In closing we asked Tate what the word ‘family’ means to her, “Large numbers – the more the better!  Closeness. Camaraderie.  All my brother, sisters, and in-laws are involved with and know my guys.  All are accepting of who they are.  It’s about stepping in and taking care of each other.  They are all willing and ready to help, and the guys have learned to love family and consider this their family.”