Read Stories of Success

Margaret’s Story

Stearns County, MN

"We have found ways for Kathy to… not only become "functional" but will become a whole person, a person who knows she is worthwhile and fully loved. That is real healing."

My daughter came to live with me as a relative foster child just over 5 years ago, four days before her 10th birthday. Our case lasted two years. During that two years, in spite of the symptoms that were presenting, we were not able to make decisions about Kathy's therapist or course of treatment and were completely unable to even get a diagnosis. After a lengthy court trial I was granted Relative Custody of Kathy. I am her cousin and I have a biological daughter 3 years Kathy's senior. Kathy, Laura and I have been family from the day Kathy was born.

Per the recommendations of Guardian ad Litems and other therapists I took Kathy to talk therapy for years. Kathy was diagnosed with ADD, RAD and ODD. Kathy had 4 different in home counselors during the case and with her bio parents, one for herself alone, a child abuse assessment at the Children's Hospital and then another talk therapist in the first 3 years she came to live with me.

I want to say that all of that therapy was worthless and frustrating and even damaging but the experience provided me with a valuable lesson. I read every book, went to the recommended workshops, made every chart, and used every system. Almost everything worked for short period of time. The first thing all of these therapists and all of the books and workshops told me was that I would be able to "save" Kathy. The best I could do for her was to help her reach a point where she would be mostly functional at some later date. I understand this perspective. When Kathy came to me she had never been in a school, could not tie her shoes, tell time, say her months or days of the week, take a shower or brush her teeth. In fact, all of her baby teeth had been capped when she was four because they were rotten. She was very primitive and often walked on all fours and growled like an animal. Kathy stayed up all night every night screaming and throwing up, stole everything, destroyed everything, lied constantly. Parenting Kathy this way was very difficult and soon family and friends started to drop off one by one. Every relationship had become strained or fell off completely.

Kathy and I participated in STARS but only in as much as participating in the study of how well services for childrens' mental health were working. It so happened that I made a trip to Washington DC with a friend. We went to see our state representative's offices. Outside one office was a group of people and I noticed the STARS logo on someone's name tag. I mentioned that my daughter and I were STARS participants and the group of us had a wonderful conversation. I was invited to go into our representative's office and present with them. After listening to our story they had some great advice and resources to offer me. They had suggested such resources like, a wraparound team for our family and a parent advocate to help me find resources in my community. This day was the beginning of our healing.

Kathy and I left talk therapy, went to attachment therapy (where I learned Kathy has ONE diagnosis of PTSD), equine therapy, EMDR, the list goes on. Finally we were on the right path and our family was taking steps forward more often then backward. None of it was easy and I had given up many times. Kathy wanted to hurt me physically and emotionally very much. And I was sick of her behavior. Such is the nature of the beast. Everything was trial and error. Each child is individual and each abused child and their story is different. There is not one answer or one working method. Each child with mental health issues is also dynamic and one method may work for a while and then the child will need something different.

Building a wraparound team was difficult for us at that time because almost all of our bridges had been burnt. Our wraparound team has also been dynamic depending on our needs and our level of healing and growth. We have had teachers, diversion officers, social workers, children's mental health case managers, STARS, youth resiliency programs, Big Brother/Big Sister, therapists, friends and mentors.

The wraparound team we have now, we call it the DREAM TEAM, is probably the last team we'll have.

My father became ill and went to the hospital and while I was staying with him a woman called me and wanted to talk about Kathy. Again. Someone always wanted to talk to me about Kathy. Her name is Susan and by the time she had called I was learning to advocate for myself and my daughter, although I was pretty angry with and sick of dealing with people who wanted to give me advice that never worked out, I spoke with her. She was different and I think of her as our angel. She said she was impressed with how much Kathy and I had done and tried to help her heal. She listened to me and spoke as if I knew what I was talking about when it came to my daughter. Susan flat out told me that I knew my daughter best and loved her best and that what I felt and said was important. Susan arranged new therapy for Kathy, she helped us find the right kind of therapy for my daughter, she helped us find an in home therapist to facilitate attachment therapy. Susan coordinated all of these things and set up staffings and all of the things that I could not do alone.

Kathy is 15, Laura is 18, I am 39. We are a family. The day that I write this we have transitioned out of respite services, we are transitioning out of in home attachment therapy, Kathy is in high school and goes to art therapy once a week, she ties her shoes, takes a shower, has friends, she is in her regular grade level in all of her classes, does her chores and her hair. Kathy is my daughter in everyway. Kathy is very much and average teenager with a few quirks. Kathy still steals, lies, doesn't brush her teeth often enough, she has braces, and she still fights with me. I have learned that I am her mom, that I love her even when she misbehaves and that she loves me too. Because we love each other so much and because, with help of the DREAM TEAM, we have found ways for Kathy to process her grief from abandonment and abuse and for me to also process and heal my own grief and frustration and for both of us to still love during the hard times, she will misbehave less and less and will not only become "functional" but will become a whole person, a person who knows she is worthwhile and fully loved. That is real healing. We are a Success!

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