At age 4, Lindsay was removed from her birth mom because of extreme neglect and domestic violence and placed in a foster home. Lindsay’s behaviors were so aggressive that her foster parents were concerned that she would harm their newborn on the way.
After nine months of Lindsay being a part of their family, the foster parents disrupted her placement because of her behaviors.
As abruptly as Lindsay had been removed from her birth mother, she was displaced from her first foster home. Once again, she found herself with “new” strangers. The new foster parents, Shelly and David, had raised several children to adulthood. And while this was their first foster placement, they assumed that parenting Lindsay, now 5, would be a piece of cake since this wasn’t their first trip to the proverbial rodeo.
Within 24 hours of Lindsay arriving in their home, they realized how wrong their assumptions were. She was terrified. Her behaviors vacillated from extreme aggression to complete shut down.
Shelly and David were at a major loss as to how to parent her. They expected foster parenting to be hard, but they didn’t expect to feel disillusion day two. To top it off, they were one week into the COVID-19 pandemic shelter-in-place order, and Lindsay couldn’t even keep her daily routine of going to daycare.
By the end of the first week, Lindsay was admitted to a psychiatric hospital because her behaviors were so uncontrollable that she was at risk of seriously harming herself. Shelly and David weren’t sure that she could return to their home upon release from the hospital. They felt completely ill-equipped to parent such – what they called – a difficult child.
Their agency recommended they call Chosen to see if we could coach them through transitioning Lindsay home from the hospital, as well as to equip them with parenting techniques that would help Lindsay communicate in a way other than biting, kicking and throwing things across the room.
They completed the assessments for Lindsay, which indicated that eight of her nine trauma-related behaviors were at clinical levels. For the week that Lindsay was at the hospital, their Chosen Care Manager worked with them every day. They learned the trauma-informed parenting skills that Lindsay’s brain – hurt by trauma – desperately needed them to know. Reluctantly, they picked Lindsay up at the hospital.
Shelly and David now understood that Lindsay wasn’t trying to make their lives difficult, or that she was just a bratty kid. Chosen taught them that the neglect and abuse she was exposed to affected her brain and development.
They now knew that the behaviors they were seeing were Lindsay’s way of saying, “I’m hurt. I’ve been rejected. I need someone to help me feel safe. I need people to show me that adults can be trusted.” Shelly and David realized that parenting Lindsay was not going to be like parenting their birth children. Chosen had given them a new plan and new skills.
Using the transition home plan that their Care Manager gave them, the first night home was calm. The next morning, the aggressive behaviors began, but Shelly used the new techniques she learned to catch the behavior before it got out of control. David and Shelly parented with a unified front, knowing when to give each other breaks throughout the day.
While things weren’t perfect, using the techniques backed by science, the atmosphere in their home has drastically improved. As Shelly and David became more confident at using the skills their Care Manager taught them, peace replaced chaos.
Three and a half months later, Lindsay’s aggressive behaviors have subsided. We fully expect the assessment levels that were in the clinical range four months ago to be in the normal range now. Lindsay is now visiting her birth mom for extended visits and Chosen has begun working with her mom to teach her the same skills. The hope is that, if reunification occurs, Lindsay’s birth mom will be equipped to use the same language and skills.
Lindsay’s foster family recently told us that Chosen was the most helpful part of their fostering journey, and they could not have continued without them.
Stories like Lindsay’s prove that healing is possible.
Will you be part of the change?