*Names have been changed for client privacy.*
Molly walked in our doors scared of everything and everyone. Not yet three years old, she was found wandering near the street almost two blocks away from her apartment building. Molly’s mother Elizabeth gave birth to her at age 16, and having not been properly parented herself, was at a loss as to how to care for her daughter. She tearfully recognized the need to place Molly with Casa de Esperanza, while she worked her own service plan. Molly had spent her short life never feeling safe or cared for.
Molly was shaking when she walked into her new home in the Casa de Esperanza neighborhood. She was hyperalert to every sound and every movement. Her foster parent described her as always being on edge, just waiting for something bad to happen. If someone Molly hadn’t met yet came to the home to visit, she would immediately put herself as far away as possible from the newcomer – preferably with a large piece of furniture between herself and the stranger. Anytime Molly saw someone she didn’t know, she would start shaking again and need to be held and comforted. Over time, Molly’s world became more predictable and she began to associate a feeling of safety with her new caregivers and her new foster home.
Almost without realizing it, Molly’s caregivers began to adapt their habits and routines to meet Molly’s need for safety and predictability. The adults tried to always speak as calmly as possible and in an even tone. They avoided sudden moves or large gestures and consistantly gave Molly advance notice of anything that would be coming up next in the day for her. As much as they could, everyone stuck to a calm, daily routine with as few surprises as possible. It quickly became apparent that a trip to the neighborhood park or attending a neighbor child’s birthday party was not a fun activity for Molly, but rather a source of extreme anxiety. Time outdoors was spent in their own small back yard and any large group activities were avoided.
Over time, Molly’s world became more predictable and she began to associate a feeling of safety with her new caregivers and her new foster home. Molly began to act more like a typical toddler. Slowly, her caregivers began to take her to small group activities in their neighborhood, staying on the fringes and only staying for a short period of time. Molly began to trust that, as long as her caregivers were with her, she was safe and could let her guard down.
Now, Molly attends birthday parties or community events and has a wonderful time. She laughs, participates in craft projects, and plays just like her peers. Although Molly still frequently checks to be sure her caregivers are close by, she has learned to be a child again and continues to grow in confidence and skills. At Casa de Esperanza, Molly learned what it felt like to feel safe and secure.