Our house mom talks about life with the girls at Davidson Farms
Shiloh Lyles moved to Davidson Farms in June 2022 to become house mom for the girls who live there, along with her husband, Jordan, and their son, Jace. You can read more about Shiloh and her family here.
What are your day to day responsibilities as house mom?
I’m Mom, so all the things that come with it. Cooking and cleaning. And I think the main goal that I have is just to make sure that I carry our vision of bringing hope and healing, and giving the girls a home while they’re here — that’s the most important thing that I think about.
You know, people ask me, “How do you cook for so many kids?” That part’s easy to me. It’s the other stuff.
So you were a mom before you got here, and now you’re a mom to many. How has that been?
It’s definitely been a growing process, because each child is so different, and learning what they need and what works for them. It’s been a joy in many moments. And I’m not going to say it hasn’t been hard in ways, but it’s extremely rewarding when you see those breakthroughs and you see them gaining in different ways.
What’s a typical day like at Davidson Farms?
I wake up before the children. I talk to Jesus before I talk to them, is what I say to them (laughs). I have my devotions and then I start waking them up. Get them up, get them fed, make breakfast, get them off to school. And then throughout the day, I wash clothes, I prep meals for the afternoon, feed the chickens. When the garden’s in season, I make sure the garden is taken care of.
Then when they get home, we do our afternoon chores. They like to help me in the kitchen, and they like to cook and it especially helps when they get to pick the meals for the week. They like that, you know, “It’s my night.” And then we hang out in our family room, we watch a show, and then go to bed.
What kind of show will you watch?
They love Disney right now. We’ve watched all of “Jessie,” and we’ve moved on to “A.N.T. Farm.” It’s just fun.
As far as food, is it hard to cook for so many kids at once?
Not to me. I think it’s because we sit down at the beginning of the week and each kid gets to pick out the main thing. So, say they pick tacos, and then I’ll pick out the other stuff. So they have a sense of responsibility to it. They understand if one of them picked chicken fried rice, then they have that respect because that was their night. But for the most part, it’s not hard to me.
I’ve definitely had some wins and I’ve had some losses. Like meat loaf? Big bomb. Did not did not go over well.
So, what about extracurriculars?
Our girls, they play sports. They’re in leadership club at school. We’ve done dance. All kinds of fun stuff.
So you go out and load them all up and everybody goes?
Oh yeah. If it’s a home game, we’re all there. We make sure we have all the coloring books to keep us occupied and things like that. But yeah, we all go and cheer them on and I love it.
How do the girls get along with each other here?
Depends on the day. They are teenage girls, so it depends. There are good days and bad days, and that is just like with any family. We just try to make it as normal as possible and it’s teenage girls, so there’s only so much we can do.
They’re teenage girls, but they’re teenage girls that have come in here after trauma. Talk a little bit about what that’s been like. Are there moments where everything has to kind of stop?
Yeah. You definitely see it, and with different children it presents in different ways. Sometimes they go inward, sometimes they go very outward. So sometimes we stop everything, everybody takes a time out, and I have to go handle whatever behavior is happening at that moment.
But I do see the longer they’re here, it has changed. We had one one girl, behaviors were very, very big when she came, but they lessened over time. And you can see that she’s learning to trust more, and she’s learning to see this is what a family is supposed to look like, and this is how you treat each other, and this is how you deal with stress. It’s not that it ever completely goes away, but you can definitely see the transformation over time.
What does that feel like for you to be part of that?
That’s the really rewarding part. This is what I do every day. As a teacher, you complete your lesson plans and it’s like “I did that.” It’s totally different here. It’s people, and your reward is seeing them grow in a little area. It might be just a little bit, but that’s a win, you know?
Talk about the support that you have from Kids to Love in terms of caseworkers and therapists.
My main support is our mentor that comes to the house often. I’m the mom, but she’s kind of like the aunt, and she’s here all the time and she has a really strong relationship with the girls as well. She knows them really well. We love her very much. We very much appreciate her.
We have a couple of therapists from Kids to Love that work with our girls very often, and the girls love them so much. They really, really look forward to seeing them, and they’ve made great progress with them so far as well.
When they first come is when (emotional outbursts) happen mostly, before they know us and before we build that relationship and we have had some big behavior. That’s what we kind of say — really big emotions, big behaviors. And we’re working through those things. It’s just part of working with children in foster care. But I am able to call and say “Hey, I need a helping hand right now. I need some backup.” Because this is a big family; that’s how we treat it, we see it as a really big family. So I call and our mentor is here in a few minutes, or we have those resources that are able to swoop in and save the day — bring that support when I need it.
For an example of that support, let’s talk about the basketball shoes.
Okay. A couple of our girls joined us in September. Tryouts and all of that stuff had already happened for sports, and one wanted to play basketball. So typically they order their shoes, their uniforms or spirit packs beforehand. She tried out and made the team, but because their shoes had already been ordered, she didn’t have the same shoes as everyone else, which is disappointing because our goal, like I’ve said before, is to make sure that they feel as normal as possible, just like a normal kid. So we found out that she didn’t have the same shoes as everyone else.
We actually had a picture of her on the court, and Lee noticed it and was like “We need to order the shoes right now so we can get them very quickly, so the next game she’ll have the shoes.” We told her, and she was so looking forward to them, asking — it took a few days for them to come in, because they were specific ones.
So she got them, and it was the biggest cheese smile ever. She was like, “My shoes are here!” It was just a win, you know? It was great to be able to say, “Hey, this is a need,” and being able to do that for her and bring normalcy to her.
It’s hard being pulled out of your family for whatever reason and being brought here with complete strangers. But being able to show her that, in a way that was so specific, I think that’s why it mattered. More than just cooking meals and doing laundry. That meant so much to her that we would say, “No, you need these shoes.”
So you’ve been here almost a year. What are some of the biggest takeaways for you, in taking on this completely new direction in your life and working with these girls?
Throw away everything that I thought I knew. I mean, I had an almost 2-year-old when we moved in, and I was a teacher for five years, so I had really good classroom management. I had really good relationships with the students, but it’s a totally different ball game here.
Not that those things don’t apply, but I read lots of books to help me understand where trauma brain works from — why this trauma response would happen from someone who’s been through what they’ve been through versus a child who hasn’t been through something like that.
Honestly, the main thing I would say is I can’t do this without the Lord, and I see that more and more every day. Also, lots of grace. I came from a home that was very “Do as I say do.” But when you’ve got to build a relationship, it’s just a totally different perspective. So lots of grace, lots of patience.
So you’ve grown a lot.
Oh, I have grown exponentially in the last year. Yes.
What’s it like when a girl comes in to the Farm?
Exciting and nervous. I get so nervous, but then, it’s fun for me. You don’t know what they’re going to look like. You don’t know what they’re going to act like, and it’s really cool.
So they come in and they get to pick out their room upstairs out of whichever ones are open at that time — we make it a choice for them. We have the rooms pretty simple when they come, because we want them to make it their own, make it as much like home as possible. They get to decorate their rooms. They have to decorate their bathrooms, so we get to go shopping. Sometimes they come with a good bit, and sometimes they come with absolutely nothing, so sometimes we have to go shopping that day. But it’s really fun. It’s really exciting.
It’s almost like in reverse — you get the nursery ready and you can’t wait for them to be here. But then they get here and you’re like, “Okay, let’s go to your room and do all the things together,” and start that relationship.
So what’s it like when they leave?
It is so bittersweet. Granted, you know, I haven’t had that many leave since we’ve been here, and you’re so excited to see them moving into the next season of their life, whether that’s back with a biological family or into a forever home.
But I treat them like they’re mine when they’re here. When they’re here, they’re mine. So it’s sad and I cry for a few days, but I’m happy at the same time. Very bittersweet.
Have any of them reached out after leaving?
My very first one that came when we got here, she’s a senior now and she sent me pictures of her going to her homecoming dance and prom and pictures of her graduation invitations and all that kind of stuff. It’s not like we talk on an everyday basis, but she keeps me updated on life. And I spent some time with two of our other girls that have left, and they’re so excited to see me.
What does that feel like to know you’ve fulfilled your part of the job and they’ve come back in some way?
It’s kind of reassuring that I’m doing something right. Because if they left and then they hated me, never wanted to talk to me again, then I probably didn’t do something right, you know? But when they see you and they’re excited to see your face and talk and catch up, and they’re so excited to hear about and see my son, all those things, it’s kind of reassuring.
So family life aside, what has it been like living on a giant farm?
It’s a good thing I don’t have to cut the grass! (laughs) It’s been amazing. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in the country, moved to the city for about ten years, and now we’re back in the country. We had to just remember that it will take 30 to 40 minutes to get everywhere, but now we love it.
I want more animals. I want, you know, to make it more. I want horses. I grew up with horses. I used to ride them and show them, so I would love to have horses and they’re great for therapy.