HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Josh and Julia Kuiper are a one-of-a-kind couple. The Kuipers and their one-month-old daughter Caroline moved to Virginia from Atlanta last year to become Teaching Parents in a group setting at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls in Henrico. Julia, a teacher, and Josh, who worked at a church, seem like the perfect couple for the challenging job. The Virginia Home for Boys and Girls is the only Teaching-Family Model certified site in Virginia.
"We kind of decided to put our worlds together and live at our job," Julia said.
It is not a nine to five job. The Kuipers work 24 hours a day and seven days a week as they counsel and support children who face a range of emotional and judicial issues.
"The boys range in age from 11 to 17," Josh, 29, said. "They’ve got it really tough. They really do."
"There are kids here that have never experienced family," Julia, 26, said. "Kids that have been bounced around to so many foster homes that they don’t want to experience family anymore. So they’ve been dealt a really tough hand."
According to the Kuipers, their home on the 30-acre campus provides the boys with space and sense of safety so they can process through some important issues. The young couple provides a structured family setting under one roof which is something the boys lack off campus.
"A lot of children don’t have the building blocks, they are developing them a little later, but now that they have them they can build from there," Julia said.
The Kuipers are one of three sets of respected Teaching Parents at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls who are changing the lives of young people.
"It's mission work. It is a calling," Christopher Campbell, Director of Group Care Services, said. "Everyone deserves to grow up in a place that is safe. And that is what we provide and that is what Josh and Julia provide."
Kimberly Hallums arrived at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls three years ago as a defiant 15-year-old girl after her adoptive mother and grandmother passed away.
"At first I didn’t want to be here. I was scared. I was nervous," Kimberly said. "When I got here my whole perspective changed."
The now 18-year-old woman traveled a dangerous path until she found her way living with Teaching Parents. Kim said she was grateful for the guidance and love at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls. She said she believed she would have landed in jail or worse without it.
"It is a family. It is a bond that is unbreakable. Thank you. Without you guys there would be no home. You guys make the home," Kimberly said. "That is what makes it. The parents we need them. We need them."
The Kuipers said they hoped their loving, caring ways lead to the same results with their seven boys. Children they consider as much a part of their family as their one-month-old bundle of joy, Caroline.
"It is extremely. Extremely rewarding," Josh said. "There are moments we sit around and play board games and watch a movie. And those are the moments you remember the power of family and the power of something larger than yourself."
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