Pay It Forward: Greg Goll

Pay It Forward: Greg Goll

by Matthew N. Skoufalos

As he and his wife approach their retirement years, Gregory Goll, CBET, a biomedical supervisor in the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Erlanger Health System, were looking for an opportunity to expand their household: the pair had decided to become foster parents.

The family, which already includes four children aged 20 through 26, initially had been looking to help out a teenager. But they heard about two boys, 4 and 5, who Goll says “were having a very tough time” and “were not in a really good situation.”

In and out of the state system, the boys were actually two of four siblings in need of new homes, Goll said, and had an older and younger sister that he said “were in a stable home with older children,” but hadn’t seen one another regularly since they were living with their birth parents.

At four years old, the oldest brother had been the caregiver for the youngest girl — so much so that she would call for him when she needed something instead of for her mother or father. The oldest girl had been a traumatic burn victim from age two, Goll said, and hospital workers at the Augusta, Ga., medical center to which she had been medically transported remember her case to this day.

“Most people don’t want four kids,” Goll said. “They don’t want a pair of kids. They want a kid. The hot commodity was really the baby. She was two years old, she was a beautiful girl, and she doesn’t really have a recollection of what her home was, she’s been pulled out so many times.”

As well as having become wards of the state, the children had suffered from the trauma of the separation that comes from being packed up and whisked away by protective services.

“Somebody could grab a garbage bag and put things in them,” Goll said, and then “they’re in a police car, they’re in a worker’s car, and then they’re gone. In some cases, they have no place to go now.”

The process can happen overwhelmingly quick for the foster parents, too, Goll said. He remembered that the boys were housed in a bridge foster home to give him and his wife enough time to get a bedroom ready for them — and then their new life began.

“They were basically delivered to our house, and we had a short time where they said, ‘Hi, here you are, here’s your new mom and your new dad, and goodbye,’ ” Goll said. “[But] if we didn’t step it up, these kids would probably have been separated. It’s heartbreaking to think that these guys would have been thrown like straws in the wind.”

After a few play dates with the sisters, whose foster family also lived in the area, the older girl told the Golls, “I’m ready to go. I want to be back with my brothers.” The four were reunited under one roof soon after.

As the children worked to acclimate themselves to their new living situation, Goll said, there were some self-protective behaviors that they had to un-learn in his home.

One time a power outage sent one of the boys packing clothes into a bag, believing that if the power was turned off, the family would be leaving the home. Goll’s wife had to drive the boys around the neighborhood to show them that the entire block had been taken offline by the storm and that power would be restored soon.

Another time, he said, the older of the boys asked him what would happen when the family ran out of food.

The oldest girl used to have night terrors, Goll said, fearing that “somebody’s going to get me,” until his wife told her, “You’re my child now, and they would have to go through me to get to you, and that’s not going to happen.”

“They’d put on rose-colored glasses and make false memories of what they thought their life was,” Goll said. “There’s a whole potpourri of that stuff.

“They have to trust you,” he said. “In their world, they don’t know why they were taken. In a perfect world, we’d have never met.”

But after reinforcing the security and stability of the new household, Goll said he started to see their relationship forging bonds of trust. He can recount the first time the youngest girl called for “Daddy” when she was ready to get up in the morning instead of for her brother.

“Every day when I pick her up in the daycare, she would count the kids and watch which kids were leaving, and knew the sequence, and would turn to the teacher and say, ‘My daddy’s coming now,’ ” Goll said.

“Every day I’d walk in the door and call her name out and boom, it was like she won the lottery.”

The Golls, who had long participated in charitable endeavors, from special education causes to Habitat for Humanity, said that the challenges of becoming foster parents are far more demanding and significant, but eminently more rewarding. And even if becoming a foster parent is too difficult of a challenge, volunteers willing to assist the foster care program can help in other ways, from financial and material support to donations of time for tutoring or educational assistance. Goll said providing respite care or volunteering to be a grandparent on Grandparents Day are ways people can help that make a big impact.

“A lot of these kids are really great kids, they have just had no stability in their lives,” he said. “There’s a lot of rewards for this because when you work to gain the trust of a child, it’s a two-way street. These kids have never had anybody to tell them what’s the normal for society, how do you go to the bathroom, what’s the proper way to use a toilet, putting clothes away, how often do you shower?”

As a man nearing his golden years, “I could be working on my cars every night, out there in my shop with the radio turned on, just enjoying life,” Goll said.

“For some reason, our paths were meant to intersect a long time ago.”

Medical Dealer Magazine | Pay It ForwardThe family, which already includes four children aged 20 through 26, initially had been looking to help out a teenager. But they heard about two boys, 4 and 5, who Goll says “were having a very tough time” and “were not in a really good situation.”

In and out of the state system, the boys were actually two of four siblings in need of new homes, Goll said, and had an older and younger sister that he said “were in a stable home with older children,” but hadn’t seen one another regularly since they were living with their birth parents.

At four years old, the oldest brother had been the caregiver for the youngest girl — so much so that she would call for him when she needed something instead of for her mother or father. The oldest girl had been a traumatic burn victim from age two, Goll said, and hospital workers at the Augusta, Ga., medical center to which she had been medically transported remember her case to this day.

“Most people don’t want four kids,” Goll said. “They don’t want a pair of kids. They want a kid. The hot commodity was really the baby. She was two years old, she was a beautiful girl, and she doesn’t really have a recollection of what her home was, she’s been pulled out so many times.”

As well as having become wards of the state, the children had suffered from the trauma of the separation that comes from being packed up and whisked away by protective services.

“Somebody could grab a garbage bag and put things in them,” Goll said, and then “they’re in a police car, they’re in a worker’s car, and then they’re gone. In some cases, they have no place to go now.”

The process can happen overwhelmingly quick for the foster parents, too, Goll said. He remembered that the boys were housed in a bridge foster home to give him and his wife enough time to get a bedroom ready for them — and then their new life began.

“They were basically delivered to our house, and we had a short time where they said, ‘Hi, here you are, here’s your new mom and your new dad, and goodbye,’ ” Goll said. “[But] if we didn’t step it up, these kids would probably have been separated. It’s heartbreaking to think that these guys would have been thrown like straws in the wind.”

After a few play dates with the sisters, whose foster family also lived in the area, the older girl told the Golls, “I’m ready to go. I want to be back with my brothers.” The four were reunited under one roof soon after.

As the children worked to acclimate themselves to their new living situation, Goll said, there were some self-protective behaviors that they had to un-learn in his home.

One time a power outage sent one of the boys packing clothes into a bag, believing that if the power was turned off, the family would be leaving the home. Goll’s wife had to drive the boys around the neighborhood to show them that the entire block had been taken offline by the storm and that power would be restored soon.

Another time, he said, the older of the boys asked him what would happen when the family ran out of food.

The oldest girl used to have night terrors, Goll said, fearing that “somebody’s going to get me,” until his wife told her, “You’re my child now, and they would have to go through me to get to you, and that’s not going to happen.”

“They’d put on rose-colored glasses and make false memories of what they thought their life was,” Goll said. “There’s a whole potpourri of that stuff.

“They have to trust you,” he said. “In their world, they don’t know why they were taken. In a perfect world, we’d have never met.”

But after reinforcing the security and stability of the new household, Goll said he started to see their relationship forging bonds of trust. He can recount the first time the youngest girl called for “Daddy” when she was ready to get up in the morning instead of for her brother.

“Every day when I pick her up in the daycare, she would count the kids and watch which kids were leaving, and knew the sequence, and would turn to the teacher and say, ‘My daddy’s coming now,’ ” Goll said.

“Every day I’d walk in the door and call her name out and boom, it was like she won the lottery.”

The Golls, who had long participated in charitable endeavors, from special education causes to Habitat for Humanity, said that the challenges of becoming foster parents are far more demanding and significant, but eminently more rewarding. And even if becoming a foster parent is too difficult of a challenge, volunteers willing to assist the foster care program can help in other ways, from financial and material support to donations of time for tutoring or educational assistance. Goll said providing respite care or volunteering to be a grandparent on Grandparents Day are ways people can help that make a big impact.

“A lot of these kids are really great kids, they have just had no stability in their lives,” he said. “There’s a lot of rewards for this because when you work to gain the trust of a child, it’s a two-way street. These kids have never had anybody to tell them what’s the normal for society, how do you go to the bathroom, what’s the proper way to use a toilet, putting clothes away, how often do you shower?”

As a man nearing his golden years, “I could be working on my cars every night, out there in my shop with the radio turned on, just enjoying life,” Goll said.

“For some reason, our paths were meant to intersect a long time ago.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The state of Georgia did not allow photos of the children to be used with this article because the children are still wards of the state while they are in foster care. The Goll family is going through the adoption process and the children are excited about the prospect of becoming members of the family.