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Two Families Rebuild—And Expand—Their Families

Little boys high five.

When Scotty* joined his older brother Samuel* at Harrington House, The Home’s group residence for our youngest children, the boys seemed more like distant friends than brothers. They hadn’t lived with each other in years and only saw one another every few months. Samuel had been in more than 10 foster homes by age 10, and Scotty was in a number of placements, as well. Samuel confided in his clinician Sydney Matteson that he didn’t know his eight-year-old brother anymore or how to interact with him. That was a year and a half ago. “It was interesting to watch them reunite,” shares Sydney. “At first, they were in a kind of honeymoon phase; they never fought the first six months.” The boys play basketball together, share their toys and look out for one another. Now that they feel safe, they also bicker and get into heated arguments, which is natural for siblings yet even more so for kids with backgrounds of extensive loss, trauma and neglect. “We’ve definitely seen that shift,” says Sydney. “They are brothers again.”

UNDER ONE ROOF
The boys’ bedrooms are on the same floor, side by side, abutting Sydney’s office. Many agencies would shy away from reuniting the brothers within the same program, as it could disrupt the child who has been living there. But The Home believes deeply in the power of kinship and Harrington House’s environment presents a unique opportunity for clinical care. Under the close watch of a professional team they’ve grown to trust, the boys are able to restore their bonds, process their loss and reckon with their respective trauma. “Residential treatment is different than outpatient,” Sydney explains. “I literally see where they eat, sleep and in all facets of life.” The context lends itself to intimate therapy. “For the boys to get the treatment they need—and also be together—is immensely valuable.” There have been ups and downs, some critical, due to the disruption in their young lives, but the brothers’ immense progress speaks to their strength. Some siblings who have endured the pain Scotty and Samuel have can’t even interact—it’s just too hard. These boys not only have this shared experience, they have a better understanding of one another and of themselves at a young age.

BUILDING FAMILY
They also have an adult cousin whose goal is to adopt them when they’re ready, so Sydney has partnered with Caryn Lister, LICSW, Director of The Home’s Center for Permanent Connections, to prepare them for this next chapter. The cousin is committed; she has been engaged in weekly family therapy sessions, switched jobs to secure the trio’s financial footing and moved into a new apartment to accommodate the boys. Scotty and Samuel have spent weekends there together since last summer. When the day comes that they can live there every day, the new family will need a team around them, due to the complexity of the boys’ clinical needs. But The Home has programs in place—some well-established, others brand new—that stand ready to provide them with resources and strengthen their support networks. Until then, the boys have each other and their loving, constant cousin. “There is a lot in that,” says Caryn. “Home is not about where you put your head every night, it’s relational,” she emphasizes. “The fact that there is an established connection and beds in that home for them, that’s home.”