Dan at age 13.
Dan had over twenty placements by the time he was placed in his current home. Dan had been in Residential Treatment Centers, Psychiatric Hospitals, and many foster and therapeutic foster homes. He had a history of violence and had inflicted significant damage on people and property. He has a variety of diagnoses; a sort of alphabet soup. Dan was in his home about six months when he began treatment. He was just being released from a psychiatric hospital because of another violent episode. After eight months of treatment, we ended therapy and Dan was adopted by his foster family. Much of the credit to Dan's healing goes to his parents who were able to stick with Dan throughout his journey.
"I have changed in a lot of ways. Some ways I have changed are, my temper, my trusting in others, my ability to handle stress, and my ability to talk when needed, my attitude towards life, and view on therapy.
"My temper has changed a lot, one way is, I do not hit in anger any more. It takes me a lot more to get me to lose my temper. I used to lose my temper easily. I even lost it over losing a card game. Or getting in trouble, I made myself get in more trouble because I did not shut up, and I ran off at the mouth. Now I can control my temper so I do not lose it and get in trouble.
"I have changed a lot in trusting others. Before now, I used to think the world was a bunch of hating and lying people that were out to get me. Then with a lot of help I was able to discover that everyone is not out to get me and be a hater. I used to not be willing to trust ANYONE. Then with a lot of help, I decided I would give trusting a shot and I did. Now I am able to trust others; also love others.
"Lots of people, including me, can see that I have changed drastically in being able to handle stress, a lot of stress. I handle it by talking to people I trust, and if I can't, I wait for the next time I can talk, sometimes I have to live with it until it relieves itself naturally. When I have to live with it I am able to do so without reacting in big ways.
"My attitude on life has changed a WHOLE LOT. I used to want to hurt myself whenever I got mad or didn't get my way because when people wouldn't give me what I wanted I felt like no one in the world cared about me and I wanted to die. I felt like no one ever understood me or even wanted to and I never talked about my feelings because I didn't think anyone would want to hear them. I never trusted anyone enough to tell them my feelings. I was afraid they would tell other people what I was feeling and I would be embarrassed.
"With a lot of help, I was able to find a new view on life and the people in my life. I feel that Dr. Art started off where I could start by talking about my outside life and how all the people in it affected my feelings on the inside. He slowly helped me to change my view on life and the people that had been in it. As he did this he helped me to look at my inside feelings and those began to change too. I started to feel better about my life. Now I feel that everything that has happened to me has happened for a good reason and someday I will be able to help others because of what I have been through. Mom says I already do that now sometimes. I feel good about myself now. I think of myself as a great person who has meaning and a purpose in this world. There are a lot of people in this world that do care about others. I know that the people I care about care about me and the people I love also love me.
"My view on therapy has also changed a LOT. I used to think therapy was a waste of time and God put therapy on earth to torture me. The only reason I thought Dr. Art was trying to treat me was because he wanted the money. I did not really think that he could help me. The only reason I kept going back was because I did not want to go back to the hospital or to a group home (although sometimes I would have preferred it). Now therapy to me is a very great thing. It helped create a whole new side of me that I could change to. Dr. Art was honest with me that therapy would not magically cure me, it would not make my past go away. Dr. Art told me that it would only help as much as I wanted it to, based on how much work I put into it. He said that therapy would, if I wanted it to, make my past easier to live with and stop blocking out my future. Now when I think of therapy, I think of the tool that gives me the ability to have a whole new way of life, that plus love and people who care enough to fight with me and for me. So, I guess therapy was one of the tools, not the only one, because Dr. Art couldn't have helped me if I still had no one who loved and wanted me. I needed both."
"The areas I still need to work on are thinking before I speak, my attitude, listening to others' ideas without judging them, and concentration. I need to work on thinking before I speak because I have hurt people by randomly speaking out before thinking about how my statement might be interpreted by others. I have hurt people by accident because I was not thinking or being considerate to other people's feelings. Sometimes I have hurt people that I love or my friends. Other people I have made not like me or think that I was mean because I gave them the wrong impression of me.
"I need to work on my attitude because my attitude can make me look rude and very ignorant. I have looked like a rude person because of the sarcasm in my voice and/or my facial expressions. Some people have said I would be a very great person if I work on my attitude and think before I speak.
"I have noticed that I have been ignoring other people's ideas or I judge them by my own standards or feelings if I do listen to them. I also hurt people's feelings by saying that their idea is stupid or not funny.
"I also need to work on not purposely instigating arguments with others. I have scared other kids and gotten into trouble at home and school because of this. I have started arguments with Mom and Dad just because I feel like having a fight and gotten into trouble. Unless I control this arguing, one of these days I am going to cause a physical fight with a peer and, win or lose, I am going to get into big trouble. So, I should just stop trying to fight and keep myself out of trouble.
"I need to start to remember stuff that I was asked to do. I feel stupid when I forget to do things. I have gotten into trouble for forgetting to do chores and homework. Sometimes I purposely forget to do stuff that I don't want to do, especially cleaning my room. I have forgotten to call people and hurt their feelings by making them feel unimportant which gives them the wrong impression because they are important to me."
Dan at age 17.
"Hello, my name is Daniel. I am seventeen years old. I was four years old when I was placed into foster care along with my thirteen siblings.
"I spent eight years in foster care, moving between eighteen families and being placed in three adoptive homes before finally being adopted. All my siblings were adopted way before me. Many were even placed together.
"I didn't let people into my heart. It hurt too much to let them in and have them break my heart in two. I got to the point that I just called every family "Mom and Dad." it was easier than trying to remember their names. Besides, they were just going to return me, so why bother?
"I found a family of my own when I was 12. My mom was very firm with me. I would try to pull stuff but she always seem to catch me. I would say stuff that was really inappropriate. She wouldn't get angry like the other moms. She just would make a joke by saying, "Oh Dan, that's a colorful word. We don't use it around here and you know that.
"Mom and Dad took me to a counselor for "RAD" which is Reactive Attachment Disorder. I loved them but still didn't let them all the way into my heart. My view on therapy has changed a LOT. I used to think therapy was a waste of time and God put therapy on earth to torture me. The only reason I thought Dr. Art was trying to treat me was because he wanted the money. I did not really think that he could help me. The only reason I kept going back was because I did not want to go back to the hospital or to a group home.
"I have changed in a lot of ways. Some ways I have changed are, my temper, my trusting in others, my ability to handle stress, my ability to talk when needed, my attitude towards life, and view on therapy. My temper has changed a lot, one way is, I do not hit in anger any more. It takes me a lot more to get me to lose my temper. I used to lose my temper easily. I even lost it over losing a card game or getting in trouble. I made myself get in more trouble because I did not shut up, and I ran off at the mouth. Now I can control my temper so I do not lose it and get in trouble .I have changed a lot in trusting others. Before now, I used to think the world was a bunch of hating and lying people that were out to get me. Then with a lot of help I was able to discover that everyone is not out to get me and be a hater. I used to not be willing to trust ANYONE. Then with a lot of help, I decided I would give trusting a shot and I did. Now I am able to trust others; also to love others. Lots of people, including me, can see that I have changed drastically in being able to handle stress, a lot of stress. I handle it by talking to people I trust, and if I can't, I wait for the next time I can talk, sometimes I have to live with it until it relieves itself naturally. When I have to live with it I am able to do so without reacting in big ways.
"I am proud to say that I graduated from therapy. My heart is not broken anymore. Sure I have scars but that makes me a stronger person. My family never gave up on me. I graduate next year from catholic school and am enlisting in the United States Air Force. I was lucky to have a family that gave me a chance, even when I felt like a "throw away" kid. Please give a bigger kid a chance! Our bark is usually worse than our bite. We just want to make sure that you love us no matter what!!"
"One day Dr. Art asked how I would know when I was done with therapy. I told him that I would work hard in therapy. I would stop hitting people. I would stop mouthing off. I would let Mom's love go into my heart. Then I found out I was already doing that. And then I knew I was done. I felt good about therapy being done.
"I really liked Dr. Art now and am proud that I am strong. I still don't need therapy. I still let Mom's love into my heart!!!!!! Sometimes I send email's to Dr. Art. I tell him how good I'm doing. I started missing Dr. Art and told Mom. Mom was confused and thought I wanted more therapy. I told Mom "I don't need therapy. I just want to have lunch with Dr. Art. So I sent Dr. Art an email to let him know that I wanted to have lunch with him. Then one day we had lunch together.
"My note: "I am doing very good! Yvonne is fun. Yvonne is my TSS worker. She takes me to summer school. I'm listening to her. I miss you but I don't need therapy. I want a have lunch or dinner or stop to see you. Is that OK? Send an email if you can or can't. I'm gonna be in Buffalo all next for OT camp. If you can't do it next week maybe we could do it another time. Kyle."
"My "alertness" has subsided (didn't know how much I was "crazed" by that). He still is young: unable to "read" others emotions so can easily take things personally that are not personal. He isn't yet really comfortable with his emotions. This makes empathy hard. When he is confused or out of line he is easily brought in close.
"Christmas holiday week came just at the right time. The day before it began, I was ready to haul him out of school again! I think he misses me. He is practicing basketball 4 days a week after school (on the varsity team!) so only sees us a small bit with dinner and homework (takes him a long time to do). I'm going to sit in on his practices when school begins.
"We did have a very happy and relaxed vacation week. Oh, he has said a few times that he would like to see you again sometime. He likes you a lot! And is very thankful he is not where he was.
"D is through the tunnel (hurray!), thinking he he doesn't have RAD any more! Really wanted to just thank you. Thank you so much for the wonderful son I now have. And for the great job you do for so many people! May God give you a most happy and healthy New Year! Mary"
"Just wanted to let you know that you have released our daughter to the world. I am sitting here watching her play at a neighbor's house, laughing and enjoying her life as a normal 8 year old. It's like everyday is a new experience for her. We have rediscovered our daughter because of you and she is even more than we dreamed she could be. Thank you so much for giving us our daughter. And she thanks you for her life too...God bless you. The Petersen Family"
A Child's Journey Through Parvui Dei
The Parvuli Dei emblem is a religious program to help Cub Scouts explore a wide range of activities in their daily lives as members of their families and parishes, and also to develop a good, positive self-image through the contributions they can make to their family, pack and community.
"My son's journey to Parvuli Dei is truly amazing. I am so proud of him, that I just wanted to put my thoughts into writing and share them with you.
"Just 3 short years ago my son was such an angry and hostile child, that the thought of doing any extra work would have been impossible. He completely lacked the ability to trust the adult world. He lacked the basic building blocks of morality/conscience development. He would have never been able to tackle a project like the Parvuli Dei Activity Book.
"My son lived in a Russian orphanage for the first 4 years of his life. By the age of 6 he was diagnosed with several disabilities due to his early years of profound neglect. These included Sensory Integration Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Once linked with properly trained therapists, who specialize in the treatment of foster and adopted children, my son’s turn around has been remarkable.
"Reactive Attachment Disorder is very debilitating. It steals away a childhood and a future from neglected and abused children. My son truly had to make the effort to heal himself. I could not do this for him. His therapist could not. My child needed to have the desire and the ability to put forth a tremendous effort in facing the demons of his past. To learn to trust adults, and especially a Mom, he had to figuratively be willing to jump off a cliff and trust that I would catch him. He had to do this despite past experiences with adults who pushed him over that same cliff and left him alone to wither in his pain.
"I am still completely in awe of that little boy, who could actually have the Herculean strength to do all that was required to become attached. Watching him struggle in therapy and at home, learning to trust and feel loved - was gut wrenching. My little boy thought he was the lowest form of life possible, lower than the dirt on the floor. His early life had taught him that he was inherently worthless. And yet somehow he had the strength, at such a young age, to rise above all of that and heal.
"I now have a 10 year old son that is excited about his faith. He is proud of his Russian heritage and proud to be an American. He loves being part of a family. He has wisdom beyond his years, and knows what it is like to be hurting and to want. I have seen him use this wisdom to reach out to another hurting child. Yes, he will bear the scars of his past for life. He still struggles with simple things like handwriting that other kids his age take for granted. He is more sensitive and more easily hurt. But with encouragement, he carries on and perseveres. It is so exciting to watch his future unfold.
"Like Saint Francis, I believe my son will use his past, to make his mark in the world."
Ann and Bob
Ann is 16. She was adopted into her family when she was 15 after over ten placements, including three failed adoptions. She was in a Residential Treatment Center when she was 13. Ann lived with her birthmother for her first six years. Ann was abused and neglected. She suffered burns and cuts, the scaring of which is visible today. Ann cared for her younger siblings. One of her younger siblings drowned in the bathtub.
The following letter is from Ann to her younger brother Bob who is in a foster home after he was violent toward his pre-adoptive parents. Ann has been in treatment approximately a year when she wrote this letter. She is doing very well in school, has real friends, has learned to love and trust her parents and new siblings, and has made remarkable progress. The letter speaks for itself.
"Bob, I just wanted to write to you and tell you what I think that you should know. Everyone needs a family, too bad we had such an awful one with our birth mom Dee and we never learned how to love or be loved but you need a family. I have a great family and its made all the difference in the world for me. They taught me how to be happy. I know it's hard to trust; but you have to let people take care of you so that you can learn how to love and so that you can be happy.
"I went through some rough times at home and in therapy. For a while I didn't want to work in therapy but then I realized he's really trying to help me and he really has Bob, he taught me to stop running from myself and from others. He taught me to talk about what is bothering me and he has taught me to love and trust my parents and my family. My parents really love me and I'm beginning to believe that a lot and it makes me happy.
"Bob, you can do it too. Go home, listen to your mom and dad, let them take care of you, trust them even though you may not want to but it is for your best trust me. Listen to them though you don't want to but they do know what is best for you. Work hard in therapy and listen to Dr. Art, he can help you, you know why because if he helped me he can help you out. If you are thinking about Dee let me tell you something, Dee never talked to us, she never took care of us.
"You have to let people love you, you have to move on with your life, do what is best for you and you know what that means, you are getting older you need to act your age, behave, treat your mom and dad with respect, they love you. Do you love them do you want to live and be with them. You need to let them into your heart and love, trust me Bob. I love you and I want the best for you. Write back as soon as possible. I Love you! Your sister, Ann."
Bob's Reply to Ann
Bob is Ann's younger brother. He was only three when he was removed with Ann and placed in foster care because of their mother' s neglect. Bob has been in over a dozen foster homes, had several disrupted adoptive placements, been in several psychiatric facilities and two Residential Treatment Centers. Bob is now living with a Therapeutic Foster family who are in the process of adopting Bob. Bob had been violent with his foster parents. He'd attacked them, destroyed property, and threatened suicide. Bob had been with them a year. He has been in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, an attachment-based therapy for about six months when he wrote this letter back to his sister. Bob is doing very well. He now wants to be adopted, is able to talk about his anger, sadness, and grief over his "lost" childhood. He is able to experience hope and joy now in his new home.
"Hi, how are you? I'm fine. I saw David a few weeks ago and he showed me some pictures of you. You looked great, and very pretty! You looked a lot darker than when I last saw you, you are lucky you must keep a tan, it takes me at least a week to get a little tan and then I lose it again fast if I am not in the sun. Do you tan or does it come naturally when you are out and about doing things?
"How are you doing with your family? Is it hard to treat them good? I love my family greatly but it is hard for me to treat them like they deserve. I've had a lot of painful and hurtful experiences with loads of other parents and that makes it hard for me to believe that these are the RIGHT parents for me! So sometimes I treat them bad but they don't deserve to be treated like they are going to hurt and/or reject me the way our birthmother and all the other foster parents did. Over the past 14 months my parents have stuck with me when times have been really rough and even when I have rejected them they have continued to love me, so I know that they have a special place in their hearts for me and only me. I'm not perfect so I still have to work hard not to let my past affect my relationships. I signed an intent to adopt with my parents at the end of June and sometime in September (I don't know exactly when) the adoption placement agreement will be signed. I think it is awesome that it is finally not scary for me to want to be adopted.
"It is hard to write to you because most of my good memories of you are set in bad times and in a bad place but my only good memories when I was little are of you. I remember you holding me and trying to make me feel better when James and David were scaring me and you getting me food when I was hungry. This makes me sad because our bithmom should have been taking care of you and me and James and David. I also remember you finding me behind the dresser at Jane King's and trying to make me feel better because we had to leave her house. I didn't have anyone else at the time but I had you to make me feel important and I thank you for the only comforting memories I have as a young child. I guess part of what I am also trying to say is that I feel bad that we did not end up together. I think it stinks that we were not able to have any control over our lives or where we ended up. Even though we had no control we both ended up in places where we are happy and have families that love us and I am Very Happy about that."
Bob's Placement Agreement
"I'm here once again and this is not new to me. Signing this sheet saying that I will stay with this family forever scares me because this is my decision to say yes or no to this adoption. I wrote this the other night in bed. Mom and dad, I know we will fight sometimes, that happens in every family but I know that we will get through it. Someday I will grow older, move out for college, and be on my own. And eventually you will pass away and I will be on my own. This will be the test of all time. I will have to learn to walk without your hands to guide me and in the time until then I will learn that you are the perfect parents for me. I may not be the perfect son but I made the commitment to finally accept you as you have accepted me. So I guess I have to make the decision and my answer is yes. You are my parents from now on. I love you.
"At night I always thought how lucky people are who were born into a good family, most people here know my birth family was not the best, but I know now that if you are accepted by a good family you are just as lucky.
"I want to thank everyone for coming and an extra thanks to every one that has helped shape my life. Thank you.