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Rebuilding a home

April 19, 2010

Maybe something was missing in their home that a child could fill. After all, Joe lived a life of service in both military and law enforcement. Cindy worked with children at a day care. They served others.

Unable to have children of their own, Joe and Cindy took a commitment a step farther by being foster parents. Following the suggestion of a friend, they opened their yellow brick home to young people who needed a home.

But they didn’t know what they were getting into when they fostered and adopted four siblings, two girls and two boys.

They really didn’t know.

All the children were developmentally delayed to varying degrees because of fetal alcohol syndrome. They had all been sexually and physically abused and suffered Reactive Attachment Disorder, a severe disorder that results from an infant’s failure to bond with a primary caregiver.

Future relationships and social interactions of children with RAD are abnormal and unstable. It caused problems in the home, particularly with the daughters. Ashley was physically aggressive in addition to other issues – she had spent time in psychiatric centers.

Ashley recently turned 18, and is doing well in her school. She gets along with her two younger brothers. Her outbursts of anger and aggression are less frequent, and Joe and Cindy are able to manage her behavior. But to get to this point, they had to start over.

They had to forget about the difficult moments of the past eight years trying to create a family for the children. They had to forget the challenges related to Ashley and her siblings trying to find their way in a new home. The oldest daughter was taken out of the home because of safety concerns for the family. Most important, they had to restore the family to best care for Ashley and her two brothers.

Joe and Cindy are a team with the children. They tell them they are loved no matter what. They asked for Youth Villages’ help, and Family Counselor Ronda Race was assigned to the family.

“There were some safety considerations that needed to be put in place, as well as some structure and boundaries for the children,” Race said.

According to Cindy, managing the home and personal matters in addition to four children with special needs began to swamp the family. Joe and Cindy were so far in the weeds, they had difficulty properly addressing the special needs of the children.

“It had become chaotic,” Cindy said. “Ronda is a very good counselor, especially in dealing with children with RADS. She did her job and she did it well. We had to learn to move forward as a family.”

Instead of trying to control the children, they redirect. They give options. They follow through with rewards for good behavior and consequences for bad choices. They stepped back and saw ways to make a difference. As a result, Ashley is planning to go to her school prom next year. Her brothers are also thriving.

“We put our home back together, brick by brick, and we needed Ronda’s help to do that,” Cindy said. “We’re a success story because we’re a happy family again.”

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