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Jennifer learns success means being part of a family team

July 31, 2012

Jennifer, right, with her father, David, and Tiger

In many ways, Jennifer’s family had normal family issues that became exaggerated.

Then they got out of hand.

Her father, David, often worked odd hours well into the night to help them get by. He couldn’t do anything about the tension at home, the verbal abuse, the outbursts of anger between Jennifer and her mother.

“There was a history of issues,” David said. “It led to a lot of tension in the home.”

Jennifer quit going to school; she abused drugs and became physically and verbally aggressive.

“The mother and Jennifer escalated each other with their behavior,” said Tanesha Carr, Youth Villages family intervention specialist. “They had begun to make progress, but it didn’t last.”

At the time, Jennifer said she didn’t care, and admitted the program wasn’t effective.

“I had animosity toward both of my parents and I wasn’t going to listen to anyone,” she said. “I didn’t trust anyone.”

Shortly after starting Youth Villages’ Intercept intensive in-home services, Jennifer was admitted to the Girls Center at Youth Villages Bartlett Campus for her aggression and self-harming behavior. At the Girls Center, Jennifer worked on her anger issues and learned coping skills. Through working on her trauma narrative, she was able to gain a better grasp of her situation and what led to her behaviors. She began to turn things around and completed treatment, returning home and to the Intercept program.

Tanesha met with the family sometimes late into the evening so David could participate. As part of the program, she met with the family an average of three times a week. She was on- all 24 hours a day for them.

This time, Jennifer was ready to change.

“They knew what to do,” Tanesha said. “They already had safety plans and de-escalation plans in place, so we used the time as a refresher and also to discuss more parenting and relationship skills.”

One skill was keeping cool heads when a family member began pushing another’s buttons. Tanesha also had to build trust with Jennifer. And while the relationship between Jennifer and her mother improved, it was still a problem source. After a few months, the mother decided to leave, and Jennifer seemed to do a lot better. First, she began going to school. Second, she began doing her homework. She’s even on track to graduate high school this spring.

“Jennifer’s doing a remarkable job,” David said. “Many times when I come home from work, which could be early or late depending upon the calls I receive, she’s at home, doing her homework.”

And as a reward, David made a concession.

Jennifer rescued a puppy near their home and brought it back. She washed the dog, washed the dishes and also cooked dinner for David.

“I have a soft spot for animals,” David said. “But Jennifer takes care of him. She brought him back from being malnourished and he’s doing great.”

Tiger’s a bundle of energy, and is evidence of the happy home because of his interactive and playful nature. And even though the family’s been discharged a few months from Intercept, they still practice what they learned. The de-escalation plan is still posted. They still have disagreements.

“We still had issues when we discharged,” David said. “But we’ve worked very hard. We’re a team. We were fortunate to have a counselor who would visit us late at night after I’d gotten off work.”

Jennifer plans to attend college after high school and is interested in pediatrics. She hasn’t missed any school, and is motivated to graduate.

“We work more as a team,” Jennifer said. “Our relationship is a lot better.”

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