Gina* came to KidsPeace in more than a year ago with a small, skinny body and a huge head of hair that only became larger when she would become angry. She was a 14-year-old girl who had already received treatment at another facility for six months and had been successfully discharged to her foster-to-adopt parents. One week later, the parents had to call 911 because Gina was throwing a tantrum and was destroying items (screaming, slamming the front door so hard that she broke the door jam, knocking family photos off the wall, etc.) and was threatening the family. She was a 90-pound ball of fire. Gina originally came into DFCS custody five years ago when she was removed from the home due to neglect and disclosure of sexual abuse. She was raised by her mother, grandmother, aunt and more than twenty different foster parents. Her father died of a heart attack on the day she was born. Her foster families all would report her "rages" would occur when she would not get her way, and reported self-mutilation behaviors including hitting herself in the face and the head, pulling out her own hair and yelling at the top of her lungs. Her foster parents were at their wits’ end and were ready to give up on Gina even though they had already adopted her older sister. Her behaviors were taking their toll, and her foster father had health problems that were making it more difficult to endure Gina's behaviors.

 

When she first arrived at KidsPeace she was very angry and felt rejected again. She would meet with her therapist, and, as soon as the therapist asked any question about her past, she would become angry and loudly proclaim, "I don't want to talk about what happened to me.  She would curse at staff and peers and would get angry if somebody just looked at her the wrong way. The therapist was able to engage Gina in play therapy and use games as a way to teach her about impulse control and build a strong trust before talking about those secrets she was keeping hidden in that little body. Gina began to make some connection between thinking before making a move during a board game (she is quite competitive) and thinking before she cursed out a peer who gave her an angry look. She predicated in an anger management group and also worked one-on-one with a Community Support Specialist to help her explore reasons for her anger and to help her build self-esteem and practice positive social skills. The therapist was able to convince the adoptive parents to give it one more shot, and they participated in family therapy. She also participated in a grief and loss group, a physical abuse survivor's group and a sexual abuse survivor's group. About mid-way through treatment, we had a visitor come to campus to get a tour and talk about our quest to build an on-campus recreation facility. Gina provided a tour to this esteemed visitor and did such a great job convincing him of our need that we received a gift for twice the amount we had requested, and Gina got a personal thank-you letter and a small cash donation. Her self-esteem shot through the roof, and she began to consider how her energy could be used for good. 

 

Eventually, Gina was finally able to talk about some of the physical and sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of multiple relatives, began to understand her own triggers and even shared that, at her previous placement, she had been molested by a female resident. She has had multiple home-visits where they report that she is doing much better, and, now when she gets angry, she asks her foster mom if she can take an "appropriate time-out," which is met with an eager approval. She left us recently, and went from our campus directly to DFCS where the family signed adoption papers to make this a permanent commitment. We all know that, when we begin to use our new recreation complex, we will always remember this injured girl who turned into one of our most effective fundraisers.   

 

 *Name changed to protect privacy