ARKANSAS, USA — If you’ve been to one, you know an escape room is a game where people are locked into a room and have to find a way to escape by finding clues and solving puzzles to get out.
It can be a little scary. But with the right team, you can escape — much like Arkansas foster care for one teenage boy.
16-year-old Joseph had only seen movies about an escape room, until now — just in time for Halloween.
“I like challenges,” he said.
Getting through the escape room was confusing and tedious work at times, like piecing together an actual puzzle, counting gum stuck on the bottom of a desk, and using an air-popper to figure out there are numbers behind strings on a wall.
We quickly figured out that Joseph was our sharpest weapon, figuring out trick after trick.
“I’ve had to do it mainly myself all my life, or think I can depend on somebody whenever I knew I couldn’t,” he said.
Joseph’s story is a tough one to hear.
“My mom used to get me real high whenever I was little,” he explained. “Ever since then, I fell into the routine of an addict and been struggling and didn’t know anything else but living out on the streets and stuff like that.”
It makes Joseph’s quick-thinking, fun spirit, and positive attitude that much more incredible.
Joseph is on solid ground now.
He has his own shoes and clothes with the help of DHS. He’s 100% clean and he wants what he’s never had — a family and people he can count on.
“It don’t really matter, I just want to have a home, someone to call a family, know that I am loved,” Joseph explained.
“It just means that there’s gonna be someone there to help pick you up whenever you fall down and let you know you’re loved and, most of all, just be there for you and be happy,” he said.
The clock is ticking for Joseph.
“If I don’t get adopted by the time I’m almost 18, it’s kinda hopeless,” he said. “If I don’t get adopted, which I hope I do, I have a back-up plan. I always have a back-up plan.”
That plan is the Army — a place where he said there’s structure. He knows there’s not much time left.
At the end of our escape room challenge, it was Joseph who got us out.
“I know I have not the best past, but I’m ready to do the right thing. And whoever’s listening, I hope someone is ready to give me a chance,” Joseph said.
I can’t tell you how touched THV11 photojournalist Bre Conyers and I were after meeting Joseph.
We knew nothing about his story until after we were out of the escape room, both of us stunned by a child who came from the worst of circumstances, fighting his way through.
All he needs is a stable home and a lot of love.
Thanks also to Deanna Fleming, the owner of the Mystery Mansion, who let us all in for free!
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