Darlene* arrived at KidsPeace National Centers of Georgia after habitually running away from other placements. She entered the campus with few possessions except for the clothes on her back and a spiky hairstyle to complement her alternative fashion style. Darlene had survived a long history of neglect and physical abuse at the hands of her biological father and adoptive aunt and uncle. She had little to no reference for the notion of stability. When she would run away, she was exposed to many drugs, exploitation and prostitution to meet her daily needs. These stresses led to an eating disorder and self-injurious behaviors – the marks of which were evident on her arms. Subsequently, she presented as depressed, hopeless and with little regard for her own well-being, much less self respect or esteem.
Despite these adversities, Darlene was a bright and insightful young lady who was willing to work on her issues, IF she could begin trusting people. Darlene slowly began to build relationships with her KidsPeace associates and therapists, leading to acknowledgment of her underlying issues. She was then able to start using her intelligence and insight to begin healing and fostering her resilience in healthy ways rather than her usual self-destructive patterns.
Due to Darlene’s lifestyle, she was very far behind in school. As she began to make effort, KidsPeace was able to help her catch up to her expected grade level. Her grades improved to straight A’s by discharge. This success served to build confidence and motivation in her in terms of academics.
Darlene has remained with KidsPeace as an outpatient client. Because of this, KidsPeace of Georgia associates have witnessed the flourishing of the seeds planted while she was in placement here. Not only did she never run from KidsPeace, she has never run from her subsequent placements either. Unfortunately, not all support systems have been positive for Darlene. She eventually moved from her group home back to the home of her aunt and uncle. She even continued family therapy with them at KidsPeace. However, shortly before her state case was closed, it was revealed that her uncle had again resorted to physical abuse and violence against Darlene. She was returned to a group home where she remained until recently.
Darlene is moving into a loving foster care placement dedicated to building on her continued success. She has worked diligently on her academics and continues to make straight A’s. She is now scheduled to graduate on time with her peers and is planning to attend a local university. Darlene was recently awarded one of a handful of scholarships to a one-week workshop at a prestigious out of state university to hone her professional skills with some of the best and brightest minds in her field of study. This scholarship was a result of her own motivation and her demonstration of ability, not her background or history. Darlene is feeling a sense of confidence unknown to her just two years ago. This shows not only through her joyful and hopeful soul, but also in her healthy weight and scarless arms.
Darlene’s triumph over extreme adversity is a testament to her own will and resilience, but also to the support and stability from KidsPeace. There are countless other Darlene’s waiting to be discovered if given the chance.
*name changed to protect privacy