Hannah first met her adoptive parents when she was eight years old. She had been removed from her home due to physical and sexual abuse by family members, and then spent months in an emergency shelter. Her adoptive mother remembers meeting the quiet, lethargic little girl who was so disconnected to her surroundings that she seemed to exist outside of her own body. When she first arrived to her new home, Hannah had frequent nightmares, ate compulsively and was almost unresponsive to touch. Even after substantial injury due to abuse, Hannah believed that it was her fault that her own family was no longer together. After one instance of being sent to her room, Hannah went away mumbling to herself. Her mother followed and listened outside of the door and heard Hannah saying “I’m ruining another family, I’m messing up again, it’s all my fault.” Children who experience early trauma often develop behaviors that help to keep them safe in an unsafe home, however, those behaviors are difficult in a healthier home. Supported by PFC’s Family Care staff, the adoptive parents learned parenting approaches that promoted safe management of these complicated behaviors and began to nourish development of healthy relationships. Hannah’s parents continue to provide her with daily doses of positive reinforcement and physical affection. They keep her close and look for the feelings that motivate her behaviors. Hannah no longer requires special education services and daily integrates loving parental care into her own narrative. Her parents report that while they still have many struggles as a family, healing happens every day.
By the time he was 9, Shane had moved multiple times amongst many different family members, and had several non-family placements at various children’s shelters and hospitals. During Shane’s chaotic and unstable upbringing here in Montana, his mother Julia had remained a constant presence in his life. Despite her efforts in raising Shane and his sibling, difficulties remained. Those many moves caused him to experience numerous disruptions in significant relationships with parental figures, leading Shane to respond to all of his caretakers by protecting himself against perceived neglect and harm, including his mom. In those early years, he developed very effective coping strategies to get what he needed within chaotic and unpredictable circumstances, but as he grew older and his circumstances changed, those strategies weren’t effective for him anymore. Shane entered group care with the Partnership for Children four years ago, and Julia was encouraged to participate in treatment with her son. Over the course of his 2 years of treatment Shane experienced relationships with group home staff in a new way. Once he learned how to relax into the consistency, availability, and safety of the Gallagher Home, he was able to do some therapeutic work with his mom. Since then, Shane and his mom have worked on mutual trust that he can be cared for by his mom, and that she can keep him safe. After Shane’s treatment, he was placed with his mom, who continued receiving parenting training through the Partnership for Children’s family care program.