Zach was a seemingly energetic and fun-loving nine-year-old when he came to live with us, I was so excited to be a first-time mother and to finally have a son of my own. I was ready to love and give Zach the forever home he deserved and needed. He was a survivor and his bright smile did not reflect the terror he had already lived through in his short life, having already experienced things no child should: drugs, domestic violence, and abuse, followed by living in a shelter and 10 foster homes. We hoped he was finally at home.
In the beginning, things went well. Zach went to sleep when we asked with no protests and to our surprise, even picked up after himself. After a few weeks passed, the “honeymoon phase” was over and things weren’t so perfect anymore. Zach had outbursts in which he would yell and scream for two hours at a time without the ability to communicate with us what was bothering him. Zach also began hiding food under his bed and getting up at night to eat food from the cabinets, leaving big messes in his wake. Bedtime was a struggle every night; Zach would scream and throw things when it was time to get ready for bed. Despite all the love we gave him, we realized Zach was still suffering from his past and we knew it was time to find help.
We found the Trauma Focused Services program at the Center for Children and Families, Inc. and began family therapy for ourselves and play therapy for Zach. I began to realize that, although my son was in a safe, stable environment now, he did not get what he needed as an infant. He wasn’t rocked, he wasn’t held, and wasn’t provided with safety – instead, his world was chaotic, unpredictable, and terrifying. Through our family therapy, we learned that Zach needed consistent, predictable routines, so we started committing to a nighttime routine. Instead of telling Zach goodnight and tucking him in for the night, we relaxed and read his favorite book together and rubbed his back to help him fall asleep. We made food available at all times, that way he began to trust that we would meet his needs. We began to recognize that Zach’s outbursts had precursors and we were able to recognize and prevent those as well. Things slowly began to improve.
Through play therapy Zach was given time each week to play out and express his feelings and experiences in a therapeutic environment. He began to trust us and learned how to use his words when he was upset, instead of yelling and resorting to violence. We recently adopted Zach and we are now a forever family! I am delighted to be this remarkable young man’s ‘forever mommy’ and we are so thankful for the tools we received at the Center for Children and Families and the help in building a happy home for our son.
-Zach’s Forever Mommy
*Names and other identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality.