Two families are asking for financial assistance to fund afterschool tutoring for their children, who are struggling with learning disabilities the families say were caused by abuse and neglect.
The nine children - six of whom were adopted through a foster family; three are being raised by their aunt and grandmother - are all taking one-on-one tutoring for reading, writing and math at , a nonprofit organization that assists in homework help and tutoring in Lilburn.
"It's different when it's just one child," said Rosemarie Lebert-Clarke, the director and one of the founders of Reading to Learn. "It's not like in the classroom where you can gaze and not do something." One-on-one work can zoom in on what exactly the child needs assistance with, she added.
While most students don't need this much extra tutoring, these nine kids do.
"What they've been through, half of it could never be told," said Martha Thompson, 63, who takes her grandsons to the learning center twice a week.
Thompson of Snellville is helping raise her three grandsons, who are 7, 12 and 14 years old. (She asked that their names not be disclosed.) The three - her eldest son's kids - were found about six years ago in a one-room crackhouse filled with 28 people in Alabama.
Thompson said the three boys were malnourished and had never gone to school until her daughter intervened. The Gwinnett County courts awarded the children to her daughter, and now the five live together.
The children have come a long way since then, but they still have much to do. Thompson said her 14-year-old grandson is on a fourth-grade reading level, and her 12-year-old is struggling with his reading, too.
The youngest boy is the most severe, though, said Lebert-Clarke. He needs to come in at least three times a week to work on just his reading, she said.
"He's so far behind, and he's getting frustrated," Lebert-Clarke said.
Because the kids have been teased at public school, Thompson homeschools them while her daughter works to support the family. So far, the kids are only scheduled to come in to Reading to Learn for two-hour sessions twice a week for reading, writing and math, but Rose said more hours would be possible with more donations.
The other family in need is in a similar boat. Snellville residents Williams and Gretchen Winfield have helped raise a staggering total of 63 kids when they were in the foster-to-adoption program. Now, they are both retired and raising six adopted children who all have special needs because of their pasts.
The kids attend Grace Snell Middle School and Rosebud Middle School. Sylvia, 12, has not passed the math portion of her CRCT in the past four years, but she's scored higher on the test since her tutoring. She and her biological brother, 11-year-old William Darius, were both abused before the Winfields adopted them.
Biological brothers Matthew, 12, and Joshua, 9, both were born with alcohol fetal syndrome and are in the indiviualized education programs at their schools. Joshua is repeating the third grade and has behavioral issues.
"He flipped his desk during the CRCT and told the teacher to kill herself," Gretchen Winfield said.
Nine-year-old Isaiah struggles with language arts and social studies, and he has ADHD and bipolar disorder. He's also had a stuttering problem since the age of 4. But, Winfield said, his math has improved with the Reading to Learn program.
Their youngest child, Sara-Lena, 6, was born prematurely to a mother who left the hospital during her pregnancy to use drugs. Sara-Lena didn't talk until she was 3, and now she has trouble forming words. In addition, Gretchen is afraid she may have dyslexia.
The family wants to continue attending the center three nights of the week because they have seen improvement, but it's been a burden financially. And public school tutoring hasn't helped the kids at all, said Gretchen.
No matter how hard it gets or how long it takes, the two families and the staff at Reading to Learn are determined to turn these kids' lives around.
"As parents, we've got to pull out all the stops and do what we have to do to get them over the hump," said Gretchen.
Lebert-Clarke also has high hopes and expects the Winfield children to have a better education through Reading to Learn. The same goes for Thompson's grandchildren.
"I think, within a year, they would catch up and go back to public school, but they will probably always need help," Lebert-Clarke said of the grandkids.
Those interested in donating or sponsoring a child can contact Director Rosemarie Lebert-Clarke by calling 770-279-6987. Payments are accepted through checks payable to Reading to Learn and either can be dropped off at the center or mailed to: Reading to Learn, 4805 Lawrenceville Highway, Lilburn, GA 30047.