SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Jennifer Cornelison embodies a mother’s love.
“I just remember being in the emergency room with him and they’re giving him a shot,” she said, thinking back to last year. “And he’s holding on to me and letting me comfort him and that’s all I want to do is comfort him.”
But what is the right approach to turn a troubled boy down the right path? We can’t talk about raising “Everyone’s Child” without bringing moms into the conversation, specifically single moms.
“As a mom you want to protect, you want to take your babies and cover them and I knew I had to let him experience this,” Cornelison said.
She’s a single mom to two teenage boys and no stranger to serious loss.
“It was actually Thanksgiving one year ago,” Cornelison said. “He started crying and asked to come back home. Because he knew it was not a good environment. He wanted out.”
When Cornelison’s husband passed away a few years ago from heart complications, her boys, now 14 and 18, handled it differently.
“My oldest, he was angry but not as bad. He was more resentful,” she said. “He did get influenced at school. By a girlfriend and her family, who was not the best type of family. Encouraged him when we was 17 to move away and live with them. Of course, because he was 17 there was nothing I could do. And I found out it was not a very good living environment for him. He was living on the floor and covered in bed boys. They didn’t feed him, didn’t clothe him.”
Still coping with the loss of her husband, she had to learn how to parent a runaway teen alone.
“When you have to fill it out on the forms and they only have married or single, it’s difficult,” Cornelison admits. “I know the first time I was called a single mom, I’m like no I’m not.”
Janelle Reed is used to the title by now. She created the group Single Momz Rock when she divorced, as a resource for what’s now nearly a thousand women.
“I don’t want our kids to be statistics,” Reed said. “There’s a lot of numbers out there about what children are that are raised in single parent homes. Being a single parent myself, I don’t want my children to become statistics.”
Jacqui Ratcliffe is part of the group. She’s a single mom to a 14-year-old boy and is also studying for her masters in social work.
“No matter what we do as mothers, we cannot be fathers both,” Ratcliffe said. “It doesn’t matter how gruff we might make our voice, or how we might try to be both male and female, we’re not. I do believe that is a difficulty in the home. And so [we look for] whether it be in church, or the community, or in teachers, wherever we can find that male mentor, that might build that relationship.
Cornelison found her male mentors in church.
“They would go out and make a staff, like a wooden staff, and go camping, she said. “Things that the fathers were not there to do, they were doing for them.”
She says it’s a combination of tough love, help from family and friends, and persistence that brought her baby home.
“I just called, showed up, took him up food, whatever he needed. He needed to go to the emergency room once and they wouldn’t take him, so I took him,” Cornelison said about her oldest son. “He just goes, ‘I want you to know I appreciate what you’re doing for me and how much you didn’t push me away, but remained constant in my life during that time.'”
That’s the same advice she gives to other single parents and the community in raising Everyone’s Child.