The stories of the children and families we have served are the best testament to our work. Below are just a few of our many success stories (names have been changed to protect privacy):
Chris had not lived with his real mother since he was removed from home at age seven due to extreme neglect. Before coming to FFYC’s Avalon program at age 14, Chris had lived in and failed at more than 20 foster homes. His behaviors included impulsive physical outbursts, setting fires, and throwing concrete blocks at cars and people.
At Avalon, Chris acted no differently. He challenged staff’s resolve daily with threats and aggression toward others. Determined to find a strategy that worked, the staff at Avalon pressed Chris to open up about his interests and strengths. They learned that Chris longed for connection and worried about his mother; Chris’s strength was, surprisingly, in his ability to care deeply for others.
The therapist located Chris’s mother who was homeless and addicted, managing her own developmental disability to the best of her capacity. Meeting at a coffee shop, the Avalon therapist supported Chris’ mother, helping her to establish a pattern of showing up for every appointment. Once she could demonstrate consistency, Chris joined the meetings.
While Chris and his mother may not ever live together again, their strong emotional attachment to one another served as mutual motivation toward a healthier way of life. Chris’s behaviors improved dramatically after he reconnected with his mother. His mother sought treatment for her substance abuse and has found a place that provides her support to live successfully off the streets. Chris graduated from the FFYC program and is doing well. He continues to enjoy regular visits with his mother.
Dee came to FFYC when she was 16 years old after multiple hospitalizations for self-injurious behavior. Abused and neglected by her family, she had little hope for a bright future. Dee was a participant in one of FFYC’s first programs for Transition Age Youth (TAY), young adults aged 18 – 24 years old. The purpose of the program is to support youth that have “aged-out” of care and need a healthy springboard from which to begin their adult lives. Successfully graduating from FFYC more than a decade ago, Dee wrote to us recently, reflecting on her time at FFYC. Here’s what she said:
“I can honestly say that without the support and teachings of FFYC I would not be where I am today. Living in the FFYC house we learned how to cook, clean, shop and get along on our own when the time came. We learned just about everything there was to know about renting an apartment and maintaining it. We learned about renter’s rights, which I still refer to even to this day when I have a problem with my landlord. We also learned how to be safe in our apartment. There was one thing missing though. When it came time for me to leave FFYC, I had no support. I had no one to turn to when I was lonely or scared. So, it was no surprise that on my first night alone in my apartment, I left running, crying and scared down Broadway Ave. And then I did the only thing I could think to do…I called my ex-staffer, Charles. He supported me and guided me; he gave me the courage and some practical tools to go back home and relax.”
Josef was mad. He had much about which to be mad. He had spent years in countless foster homes. He was forced to uproot frequently as his caretakers had difficulty with his outbursts. In fact, he spent such little time in a single foster home at a time, that no one realized his anger was directly related to a medical condition. At 19 (one year past the “age-out” for foster care at the time and most youth service programs), he was homeless, disoriented, and hungry. He had tremendous difficulty affording his medications and, when he could, he had trouble remembering to take them. His anger had twice resulted in his receiving citations from police. When he hit his girlfriend, she called the police and, after being in jail, Josef ended up living on the streets.
Josef arrived at Fred Finch Youth Center’s Turning Point program after having heard about it from a friend. Working with the Turning Point and STAY (Supportive Housing for Transition Age Youth) teams, Josef developed a trusting relationship with a healthcare provider and now receives the medication he needs on a regular basis. He completed an anger management course. Josef recently reconnected with his mother who, at his request, supports his treatment by calling daily to remind him to take his medication.
Josef is enrolled in a local community college where he achieves above average grades. His Fred Finch Youth Center therapist still meets with Josef both individually and with his family to support his self-defined goals. He is taking his medications, now lives in a stable environment, and keeps his anger under control by expressing his emotions through healthy communication with his therapist and caring members of his family.
JR, at twelve years old, was in his 13th placement in nearly six years. He had lived in his present home for almost a year; the growing attachment for the family was evident and his foster parents wanted to adopt him. With a history of early sexual abuse, JR knew how to leave families, but he didn’t know how to stay in one. As the date for his adoption approached, JR became unresponsive at home. He avoided eye contact, skipped classes at school, and began stealing from family members and classmates. When his foster parents showed no sign of giving up, he became physically aggressive in school, refusing teacher directions. His classroom teacher referred JR to FFYC.
Our clinician met with JR at home and in school. With help, JR put words to his feelings: he feared that his parents would be “too nice” if he was adopted. He stole material things from his family, but feared what they offered him emotionally. Although JR wanted the closeness and sense of belonging his foster family offered, he had previously learned to avoid abuse by keeping his distance. The FFYC therapist worked with JR’s family to find ways to be close and reassuring that were customized and non-threatening for JR. JR invented a secret handshake with his father that only the two of them shared, while his mother put hand-written notes in his lunchbox affirming that he was special to her. In school, the therapist worked to identify JR’s strengths.
With support from FFYC staff and family, he joined an after-school sports team, which motivated his interest in doing well all day, every day. JR struggled again when assigned a cultural project for school, as he was worried that everyone could see he did not look like his foster parents. But, the Fred Finch Youth Center therapist worked with JR’s family to create a family coat of arms that included symbols from JR’s culture, together with those from each of his parents. After 12 weeks, JR announced he was ready to be adopted. He is now a proud and permanent part of the family. His mother reports a monumental shift in his confidence.
Miranda quietly watched the FFYC Wraparound Team during her first meeting. A son with autism, another who was aggressive toward others nearly every day at school, and a daughter with multiple learning disabilities, Miranda was eager for her children to return home with her. Miranda had recently been released from prison, she had no job, no income, no food and no support system or safety net. Miranda was skeptical. She had learned to be wary of workers claiming to “help”.
Her perceptions all changed when she met Jose, a Family Partner at FFYC. Bringing life experience to the table, Jose created an action plan for Miranda—referrals to food stamps, beds for the children, help with her resume and even accompanying her to a job interview for which she was especially nervous. After a short period of economic assistance, and Miranda was standing on her own two feet. As her children returned home, Miranda, with the FFYC team’s assistance, developed resources to sustainably and responsibly support each child.
Today, Miranda works and adequately provides for her children. She proudly displays the list of support resources on her refrigerator, noting that she has gone from thinking she had no one to discovering many people, who with the assistance of her FFYC team, can respond when she needs to talk, pick up her children from school or join them for an activity on the weekends. No longer alone, Miranda and her family enjoy their lives together again. Miranda recently wrote: “Fred Finch Youth Center believed in me, and for the first time in my life, someone did what they said they were going to do.”
Richie (10) and his younger sister Samantha had no idea what it meant to be safe. They arrived at the FFYC Day Treatment Program after experiencing a lifetime of homelessness and general neglect as a result of their parents’ transient lifestyle and substance abuse. Initially, in foster care and at school, both children acted with a total disregard toward authority, defying rules and being disruptive. Richie used explicit profanity toward his foster parents and teachers, engaged in fighting and physical aggression with peers, and overturned desks or furniture when he became angry. For Richie and Samantha the world was pretty terrifying, so they created a “safe place,” by closing the world off and gaining emotional distance through increasingly aggressive behaviors.
The FFYC therapist met with the children daily, helping them remember positive experiences and by encouraging them to bring favorite activities into their new home. FFYC staff initiated regular therapeutic meetings with the important adults in Richie and Samantha’s lives, their foster parents, teachers, after-school care providers, and other influential people. FFYC staff enlisted their support to help the children gently explore and accept their new surroundings.
With the support of FFYC staff and a network of emotional support, Richie and Samantha have developed a sense of true safety at last. By building an emotional environment of safety and trust Richie and Samantha had the fertile groundwork available to improve their self-control, capacity to comply with authority figures, and to tend to the business of being children: exploring, growing learning, and playing.