Children’s Mental Health Success Story

January 23, 2024

TFC Childhood Mental Health Success Story

Andrew came to TFC for therapy services when he was eight years old. His foster mother, Kerry, brought him to TFC after Andrew was separated from his biological mother per a court mandate. Andrew had been removed from the home more than once, and his father had been in prison for much of his life. Andrew suffered physical and emotional abuse as well as severe neglect. The separations themselves were also traumatic, and new home placements often did not go well, often due to a lack of understanding of the support he and his younger brother needed. The court wanted Andrew to get needed support in therapy due to his extensive trauma history. The judge eventually sought the opinion of his TFC therapist on whether or not he should be permanently removed from his biological mother due to concerns about her behavior and repeated patterns of abuse, neglect, and removal.

It took a long time to establish trust with Andrew. Due to living in unsafe situations throughout much of his early years and taking on the role of an adult to survive, he is often on guard and his ability to read people is advanced compared to his 8-year-old peers. He developed a heightened sense of hypervigilance and has learned to quickly judge his safety in different situations and with different people as a result of keeping himself and his younger brother safe throughout their childhood. Andrew may always struggle with that, but he has come a long way. 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.

Andrew has now been in therapy services for four years. During that time, he and his foster mother – who has now become his adoptive mother – have come diligently to therapy to do the hard work of safety planning, processing trauma, unlearning patterns of abuse and neglect, creating trust, and increasing overall stability. During the time Andrew has worked with a TFC therapist, he has established the ability to self-advocate and trust that some adults are safe and can listen to and support him. Before his removal from his biological mother, he appeared before a judge and told him the reasons he did not want to be returned and how he had been harmed. After disclosing to his adoptive mother and TFC therapist that he witnessed the lead-up to a murder during his time at his biological mother’s home, he completed a forensic interview with officials.

Andrew has been able to safely remain with his adoptive mother Kerry and maintain and grow their bond throughout the foster and adoption process. Though there are still struggles with his biological mother contacting him and crossing boundaries with his adoptive mother, therapy has supported both Andrew and his adoptive mother in safety planning, processing trauma, learning about boundaries, and practicing open, honest communication that can lead to problem-solving. Andrew has established a life separate from his past that includes more everyday challenges of a pre-teen, like playing on electronics too much and yearning for independence. Early in treatment, Andrew frequently tried to parent his younger sibling, a survival behavior he learned in his early years. Over time, Andrew has grown more trusting of the adults in his life and is more capable of acting like a kid than when he first entered services. Despite the array of trauma triggers that he continues to experience with his caregivers, teachers, and other adults, Andrew continues to be engaged in therapy and continues to do repair and attachment work with his adoptive mother as well as process trauma using Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Flash Technique to reduce the emotional toll that his past continues to have on his mind and body’s ability to feel safe.