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Through intensive therapy, a young boy overcomes his fears and his need to protect
Nine-year old Eddy was afraid his mother wasn't safe at home — or anywhere else. She had recently left her physically and verbally abusive husband, moving to a new apartment with Eddy and his younger brother. Eddy knew his father had a gun and felt obligated to protect his mom, even if it meant staying home from school.
Eddy's need to watch over his mom created constant struggles around school attendance; he often simply refused to go. His mother had to drive him, and Eddy frequently wouldn't get out of the car. When he did go, he quickly retreated to the corner of his classroom, pulling his hood over his head. His mom would be called to bring him home, causing her to repeatedly miss work. Things became so bad that Eddy's mom had to quit her job to stay home with him, leaving the family without an income.
Nobody could figure out why Eddy was behaving this way. Did something happen at school to make him afraid, was he being bullied? His mother, the school staff and even his friends tried to help, but when questions were asked, Eddy answered them all with silence.
After Eddy missed almost every day of the first two months of third grade, his school reached out to Safe at Home (SAH) for help. The Home for Little Wanderers' program assigned two of its clinicians to work with the troubled boy and his overwhelmed mother. The team met with Eddy and his mom for intensive therapy several hours a week, both at home and in school. They would arrive at Eddy's apartment at 6:30 a.m. to coax him into getting ready for school, accompany him to school and then stay — sometimes for hours. They provided emotional support to his mother and connected her to resources like the food pantry.
By creating a "safe space," the team gradually helped Eddy share his feelings. After a month of work, Eddy finally revealed his fears. "I want my dad in my life, but I'm also afraid of what he is going to do to my mom."
The SAH team realized Eddy needed a day placement in a special education setting to get the care necessary to overcome his fears and work through his traumatic past. They advocated on his behalf with the school district liaison and secured a 45-day assessment program for him.
The first week at the new school was tough for Eddy and his mom. Eddy reacted to the transition by kicking and screaming as his mother walked away; she felt as though she was abandoning him. The new school setting was well-equipped to deal with Eddy's behavior though, and the SAH team was just down the hall, waiting to help his mom cope.
Slowly, things began to turn around, but Eddy still needed more time. The SAH team, in collaboration with the special education school, worked to get funding from his school district to extend Eddy's placement until the end of the academic year. Once Eddy realized he was staying, he began to bond with his new classmates, making it easier to go to school. He also began to worry less about his mom's safety.
After a month and a half at the new school, Eddy was willingly staying in class, and by two months, was excited to go to school. Eventually, he started taking the bus and began to play outside with kids in the neighborhood, something he never did when first moving into their new apartment. He felt comfortable leaving his mother alone and she was able to start applying for jobs.
Soon after Safe at Home stopped working with the family, Eddy celebrated his 10th birthday and invited the SAH team to his party. It was rewarding to see how Eddy had transformed from his mother's silent, frightened protector into a smiling happy boy, playing and acting like a kid again.
Part of The Home's 2011-2015 Strategic Plan involves a long-term approach to effectively managing the real estate that we use for our programs and services. The governing principle is that we will continue to own the property where our children live and go to school but, over time, will divest ourselves of other facilities that we own across the Commonwealth and lease appropriate space for our community-based programs and administrative operation.
As we have already announced, the Knight Children's Center (KCC) in Jamaica Plain has been sold and the program will relocate to the new facilities at Longview Farm in Walpole. Our goal is to have the children begin the new school year there in September. Construction of the new residences and school is ahead of schedule and what was only a dream a year or two ago is now almost a reality, thanks to the tremendous generosity of our friends and supporters.
The sale of KCC will not become effective until the end of year, which means we will still be able to hold our famous "Toy Room" there during the 2012 holiday season. We are earnestly looking — with Mayor Menino's help — for a new space to hold this event, which has been near and dear to the hearts of many families throughout the region for so long.
Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D.
Imagine having to keep your child indoors because your neighborhood is not a safe place to play. What if you lost your job and had to choose between buying groceries or heating your home?
Thanks to your support, The Home is able to maintain a pool of money known as Flex Funds to help families in situations like these. When a family in The Home’s care is facing times of extreme hardship, the funds can be used at the discretion of the clinician to fill a specific need, ranging from very basic necessities to services that are not typically covered by the state.
For the child whose neighborhood is unsafe, the Flex Funds allowed us to purchase a membership to the local community center, providing an opportunity to play and be active in a safe, supervised environment. Grocery store gift cards were given to the family struggling to make ends meet so they didn't have to choose between food and heat. Other examples include co-payments at pharmacies, camperships, and furniture for a homeless family starting over again. It is generous donors like you who make all of these things possible. Thank you.
Board Member Steve Pemberton’s new book reminds us that anything is possible
Steve Pemberton's inspiring story serves as an example, not only for children in The Home's care, or anyone who has ever faced adversity, but for all of us. His autobiography, A Chance in the World, chronicles his harrowing journey growing up as a foster child in New Bedford and determined search for his family as an adult. As a board member at The Home, Steve has reached out to foster youth in our care. While never a client of The Home's, he understands the challenges these kids face and uses his own experiences to give them courage and hope for a better future. His tragic childhood stands in marked contrast to his life today as a successful businessman with a loving wife and three wonderful children.
Four months earlier, the youth began working with Robin — the signature voice of the 1970s band the Chartbusters — through weekly songwriting workshops. Her non-profit, Songbird Sings, had caught the attention of Theo and Paul Epstein, who support The Home through their Foundation To Be Named Later, and she was encouraged to do more with youth at risk. The goal of the workshops was to help these young people find healing from trauma through writing and recording music.
Working with Robin gave the YARN youth a chance to tell their stories, many of them including histories of abuse, neglect, poverty and homelessness. The song they wrote, "Be You," sends a powerful message about taking charge of one’s own life to create change. The lyrics reflect the feeling of empowerment these youth felt as a result of this whole experience. According to YARN's Program Director Erica Nazzaro, it was an amazing opportunity for them to "use their voice, be heard, and showcase their talents."