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The Little Lions

It’s a story that seems from the beginning like a hopelessly downward spiral. A young couple with three children under the age of five. Dad in and out of prison on drug-related charges and probation violations. Domestic violence. Unstable housing. And when daycare staff noticed bruises on one of the children, the Department of Social Services removed all three to kinship foster care.

Then, after several months with relatives, the children were moved again because of concerns about their safety. Adults in the home were yelling at the children and using physical forms of punishment, and there were signs of inappropriate sexual behavior from another child in the house. Most troubling, Mom believed the three children were fine wherever they were and that she and they would soon be reunified.

A savvy social worker, though, knew that the children had experienced and were experiencing trauma, and she referred them and their mother to the Urbaniak Clinic at CCFH. To overcome any resistance, our therapist Halley presented Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) to Mom as simply a little extra parenting support.

Halley spent the first two months just getting to know Mom one-on-one. These conversations brought about a change in her perspective, and she began to recognize the significant impact on her children of all that had happened. Halley helped her see how her own trauma history was affecting her behavior with her children, and she began to connect their behavior and responses to the adversities of foster care and being away from their mother.

Halley then began seeing Mom and the children together twice a week with the aim of establishing consistent, healing interactions between them. In these sessions, Mom is learning to show the children that no matter how big their scary feelings get – anger, sadness, anxiety – she will be present and safe. Using stuffed animals, they have re-told what they have been through, the story of Mama Lion, Daddy Lion, and the Little Lions. And Mom has found appropriate ways to communicate her sorrow and regret to the children about what they have been through. All of these things are putting them on the path to a place where the kids see their mother as bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind, and themselves as safe, capable, and loveable.

Dad was released from prison recently, and Halley has started foundational sessions with him, too. He has been responsive to recommendations from the Department of Social Services, and he always comes to his weekly appointments with Halley. Mom and Dad are separated, but they are co-parenting successfully. And Halley believes that reunification is possible. It will begin with a trial home placement at Mom’s house with occasional visitation from Dad, and Halley will continue supporting them at every step along the way.

Childhood trauma is the source of a lot of hopelessness in the world, but not at CCFH. We believe that as long as a family is willing to stick with the evidence-based care offered in the Urbaniak Clinic, they can find their way to healing and wholeness.

Posted on January 22, 2019