Timmy moved into my home on his 8th birthday. He was my very first foster child, and it was an emergency. Luckily, I was aware of the birthday so I had time to buy a cake, balloons and a gift. I didn’t know what he’d like, but I chose a stuffed animal that could fold into a pillow – a green gator, since I figured boys like tough animals. He was happy with my choice and told me he had a bunch of other stuffed animals that he slept with to keep him safe.
While Timmy hadn’t been bounced around too much, he was removed from a home where he lived with his little sister to a residential program prior to moving in with our family. This was going to be a big change. He would be the youngest child in my home – I have two boys and a girl, pre- to mid-teens.
Timmy arrived with several issues that were related to his trauma history, but nothing seemed to move him. One day he got into trouble at school and lost privileges at home; he cried and I was ecstatic! I know this may sound weird, but what it proved to me was that teamwork does pay off. Timmy’s team consisted of his social worker, a trauma therapist, myself, maternal grandmother and school staff. We worked diligently to make him feel safe and change some of his self-injurious behaviors.
So, his tears signified a breakthrough to me. I knew he was withholding his emotions making it look like he didn’t care; he cared. Unleashing the bottled up emotions was the beginning of something new for me and for Timmy. He gave me a strange look as I praised him for crying. He may not have understood, but I knew why I was happy!
While the journey transitioning Timmy back to his family home was long and challenging, it was incredibly rewarding. Before he left, Timmy graduated from trauma therapy, passed the MCAS in school, outgrew several of the self-injurious behaviors that hindered his development and matured into a kind, caring kid. His birth parents had also made changes that demonstrated significant growth. Letting Timmy go was not easy. It proved to be very emotional for me and my birth children; but knowing we had helped him to make so many positive changes and learn how to “use his voice” made all the difference.
Timmy is happy to be HOME. We have forged a relationship with his birth family so we can all keep in touch – and we do. We are already planning a get-together once the weather gets warmer.