That’s the word that kept coming up on just about every sheet of paper Thompson therapist Angela read in Zach’s case file.
Taken from his mother at age 4 after being found by a neighbor wandering the halls of his apartment building, Zach was severely malnourished and living in squalor. He was in foster care for 7 years (13 separate placements!) before arriving at Thompson’s residential treatment program.
And this wasn’t his first time in residential care either. He’d been previously placed at two other treatment facilities and it was Angela’s goal to make this one different. She knew his time at Thompson had to be successful for Zach to escape from the terrible path of his past. Angry, sad, frustrated, unmotivated. These are the words Angela uses to describe Zach during his first few weeks in therapy with her. It wasn’t until they were able to connect over their mutual love of sports that there was a breakthrough. With that connection, trust was soon born and Zach’s healing began.
Leaving for a group home after four months of successful treatment, Zach shared his feelings about Thompson in a letter. “I will be sad because I will miss the only people who have given hope to me.”
Thank you for giving Zach hope.
Only eight years old, Kate had experienced years of abuse and neglect by her biological parents. In addition to her personal trauma, she had seen the horrific physical and sexual abuse of an older half-sibling by her own mother.
After being removed from her home by DSS, Kate was placed in a loving foster home and soon adopted. During this time, Kate was referred to Thompson Outpatient Therapy Services. In her first few sessions with therapist Debra, Kate was afraid to talk about her abuse. She would cling to
her adoptive mother or burst into tears and hide under Debra’s desk.
Together, Debra and Kate developed a “relaxation box” with activities Kate could use when feeling anxious or experiencing a traumatic memory. Her box included: bubbles and a pinwheel to use for deep breathing; a copy of her favorite Bible story to read when feeling worried; and a pair of pompoms to get out any nervous energy.
Kate learned to recognize when she was having “warm fuzzy” thoughts and “cold prickly” thoughts. She learned how to stop the negative ones and turn them into positive thoughts. Soon, Debra didn’t see the scared little girl who had walked into her office five months before. Instead, she saw someone very brave and strong. At the end of her last therapy session, Kate and her adoptive mother cried. This time, they cried “happy tears” of gratitude for the progress Kate had made.
Thank you for giving Kate her courage back.
The good news is Tiffany is now 19 years old and in college majoring in music. The sad news is she had a tumultuous childhood that eventually brought her to Thompson’s Saint Peter’s Lane residential campus. Tiffany was only 11 years old when she arrived. She remained at Thompson for a full year. Her coping skills were nonexistent. She just couldn’t adjust to the fact that she did not know her father and didn’t have a father figure in her life. She was prone to violent rages.
While at Thompson, she learned how to deal with her emotions by using her “coping corner,” containing a bean bag chair that was all hers. But what she also enjoyed was having her own room, bed and bathroom. This, to her, was a real luxury.
It took a long time for Tiffany to deal with her hurt and abandonment, but she did. She eventually left Thompson and stayed with a foster family until she could be reunited with her mother.
Recently, she found Thompson on Facebook and wrote a letter sharing some of her fondest memories of her stay at Saint Peter’s Lane. This was the first real home that provided the love and security she so desperately wanted and needed. She finally had people around her who truly cared and she told us she “is grateful for every moment of her stay.”
She will never forget Thompson and Thompson will never forget her!
Malik carried a very painful history with him when he came to the Thompson Family Services Center last year. His biological mother was addicted to drugs and sold her body to support her habit. There was domestic violence and physical abuse in the family so she and Malik, age 9, frequently lived in homeless shelters and often had little to eat. Shortly before Malik and his siblings began therapy at Thompson they were taken into DSS custody after a social worker learned they had been sexually abused. They were placed in the care of a relative and soon after his biological mother died of a drug overdose.
Some might wrongly assume that a child couldn’t recover from this kind of complex trauma. But because of the incredible support that Thompson receives, our staff was able to surround Malik with love, kindness, support, and compassion. Then the story took a wonderful turn.
As Malik slowly began to respond to his therapy, Thompson therapists recognized his love of dance and believed he had a natural talent. To encourage his growth, staff let him put on an impromptu show for them. Heads turned. Applause flowed. Malik had found a comfortable place to express himself and develop confidence. Soon after his performance, Thompson staff found a scholarship program through a local ballet company where Malik auditioned and was awarded a scholarship!
Two weeks ago Malik and his sister were adopted. The Thompson staff had a celebration in the office and were able to watch a video of Malik’s first dance recital with the ballet company. “It brought tears to my eyes when I saw this little boy in the middle of a huge stage pick up a little ballerina and spin her up in the air while the audience cheered for him,” said therapist Katherine. “It is these kinds of moments that remind me of the incredible power of love to bring change and healing.”
Thank you for helping us give children like Malik a chance to flourish and recapture their lives.
“I would like my son to come home, but he frightens me.”
As 14-year-old Martin was being discharged from an NC psychiatric treatment facility, his mother was worried. Martin was still unable to handle his frustrations and frequently lashed out both verbally and physically. And while he was away he’d had a growth spurt and was now taller and heavier than she so controlling him would be difficult.
His mom immediately sought help from Thompson’s Outpatient Wraparound Department. Here she found partners and coaches who were ready to help Martin transition back to his home.
During his initial evaluation, it was determined that Martin had a significant mental challenge and as a result, his behavior was more like a first grader than a middle schooler. The wraparound team knew this would present a challenge as his neighborhood school had already indicated they were not equipped to handle him.
Eventually, the wraparound team found Martin a special school where they decided to try something different. Instead of placing him in a class of children his own age where he became angry with disruptive tantrums, they placed him in a class with first graders. Suddenly he became calm and actually started to enjoy school. And the children accepted him with open arms.
Meanwhile, Thompson had assigned him a volunteer “youth partner”, whom he called his new friend, and they started meeting twice a week to ease his transition back to school. Sometimes they would just sit and talk, other times they would play sports, but most of all they would cook. Martin knew his mother enjoyed whatever he cooked for her, even if it was just hot dogs.
So Martin and his youth partner decided to create a cookbook for his mom. He cut pictures out of magazines and pasted them in a book. Then his new friend would write the recipes as he dictated them to her. His mom now has a cookbook that tells her how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, soup and of course, hot dogs.
Finally, after a year of working with the Wraparound Team, Martin was ready to be discharged from Thompson’s care. His tantrums had lessened and he had adjusted well to his new school. This meant he had to say goodbye to his new friend who he had relied upon to help him through his difficult transition.
Sadness overwhelmed him, but the team knew Martin was ready to move on with his new life. So, ever so slowly, Thompson backed off until one day Martin agreed that he was ready to let go.
Today, he still attends school with the younger children and is happy to do so. And he still cooks for his mother – especially hot dogs.
Thank you for making it possible for Thompson to help transform the lives of children like Martin!
Trevor’s story is a very personal one for former Thompson staff member Jane Weaver. She shares her heartfelt tale of a sweet new friend below.
Trevor arrived at Thompson’s Saint Peter’s Lane campus in July of 2016. At 8 years old, he’d seen and experienced far too much for his young life.
He’s a slight little boy with rounded shoulders, dark soulful eyes, his hair in a buzz cut and eyes always cast down towards the ground. He rarely, if ever, smiles and speaks in a voice that can barely be heard.
I have lunch with him about once or twice a week. He loves tacos but hates refried beans. Bananas are his favorite fruit. I love the Patriots. He hates them.
When I first met him, he barely made eye contact and wouldn’t allow me to touch him. I quickly realized he wasn’t used to affection and I backed off to give him space. He seemed satisfied with that.
By Halloween, I noticed that he was starting to enjoy the company of the other boys and he even seemed excited about dressing up. The children paraded through the halls of our administration building on Saint Peter’s Lane. When he came down the hall, I heard, “Miss Jane look at me!” When I looked, there was Trevor smiling like never before. My heart melted.
We continued our lunches together. Sometimes he would come to visit the development department with a mentor from his cottage. He would always stop in my office to say hello. Then one day, much to my surprise, he walked towards me and gave me a big hug. “Hi, Miss Jane” was all he said. He took my breath away.
Now he stops in my office regularly to get candy, but always remembers he must take enough to share with the others in the cottage – even his mentors. He told me, “We can’t forget them”.
I share this with you because Trevor will soon be leaving us. He told me at lunch recently, “Miss Jane, I have people.” When I asked what that meant, he told me Thompson found a foster family for him and he will be leaving soon. My heart burst for this serious little boy. Again, he said in his quiet little voice, almost a whisper, “I have a family Miss Jane”.
I will miss this little man. I will cry when I say goodbye to him, but I know it’s for the best. We want him to have a full life. He deserves it. They all do.
Thank you for giving Trevor his happy ending!