Therapy Helps Child Process Traumatic Past and Move Forward with Adoptive Family
Andi came to The Family Conservancy (TFC) for therapy services when he was 8 years old. Her foster mother at the time, Kerry, brought him because it was mandated by the court after Andi was removed from his biological mother. Andi had been removed from his biological mother’s home more than once and his father has been in prison for much of his life. Andi suffered physical and emotional abuse as well as severe neglect. The removals themselves were also traumatic when foster care placements did not go well, often due to a lack of understanding of the support he and his younger brother needed. The Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services wanted Andrew to get needed support in therapy due to his extensive history or trauma. She was eventually connected with a therapist at TFC.
It took time for Andi’s therapist to gain his trust. Though she easily reads people, due to living in unsafe situations much of his early years and taking on the role of an adult to survive, she is often on guard. She developed a sense of hypervigilance and learned to quickly judge his safety in different situations and with different people, because he had to keep herself and her younger brother safe throughout their childhood. It serves as both the protective factor that kept him alive when he was younger and a hindrance as it complicates his ability to trust and feel safe with many people. While Andi may always struggle with that, she has come a long way.
Andi has now been in therapy with TFC for four years. During that time, she and her foster mother – who has now become her adoptive mother – have been diligent and done the hard work of safety planning, processing trauma, unlearning patterns of abuse and neglect, creating trust, and increasing overall stability. During the time Andi has worked with a therapist at TFC, he has established the ability to self-advocate and trust that some adults are safe and can listen and support her. She successfully testified in a hearing about being removed from his biological mother’s care, and told the judge why she did not want to be returned and how she had been harmed. She completed a forensic interview after disclosing key evidence regarding a murder to her adoptive mother and TFC therapist that she had witnessed during his time at his biological mother’s home.
Andi has been able to safely remain with Kerry and grow their bond throughout the foster and adoption process. Though there are still struggles with her biological mother contacting her and crossing boundaries with his adoptive mother, therapy has supported both Andii and Kerry in safety planning, processing trauma, learning about boundaries and practicing open, honest communication that can lead to problem-solving. Andi has established a life separate from his past that includes new everyday challenges like playing on electronics too much and wanting more independence than he may be ready for. When Andi first came to TFC she frequently tried to parent her younger sibling as that is something he did out of survival in his early years. Over time, Andi has grown more trusting of the adults in her life and is more capable of acting like a child. Despite the array of trauma triggers he still experiences, Andi is engaged in therapy and continues to process his trauma to reduce the emotional toll that his past has on her mind and body’s ability to feel safe.
Names and minor details in this story may have been altered to protect identities.
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