The four children had been through an unimaginable trauma. They arrived at Wayfinder’s Cottage late at night, after their stepmother committed a violent crime in the home. The older children were disoriented and fearful. The 1-year- old baby, Anna, cried incessantly. In The Cottage, they found a welcoming, safe haven.
The oldest, 14-year-old Tisha, was very anxious about her brothers and sister. She was exhausted. “All she wanted to do was take a shower, eat and sleep,” says Irene, a Wayfinder intake therapist, “but she felt she couldn’t because she had to take care of her siblings.” Tisha monitored them as they took showers, received new clothes from Cottage staff, ate and went to bed.
“THE GOAL IS TO PLANT SEEDS IN HOPES THE CHILDREN WILL NURTURE THEMSELVES AND CONTINUE TO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE.”
-Irene, Wayfinder Intake Therapist
Irene was concerned about Tisha’s parental role. “That is one sign of a child who has come from a home with physical or substance abuse,” Irene notes. Tisha needed to learn how to relinquish the role of parent so she could develop healthy relationships.
Wayfinder’s Temporary Shelter Care program, known as The Cottage, is a 10-day shelter on our Los Angeles campus for children ages 0 to 18 who have been removed from their homes by children’s services and are awaiting placement with a foster family. The program is one of only four in the county and the only one that accepts infants and toddlers.
To build trust, Irene says, “We always have to meet our kids where they are. We can’t go in pushing our agenda.” The next morning, Irene assured Tisha that anxiety was a normal response to what she had experienced. Irene praised Tisha for wanting to take care of her brothers and sister but then asked what she liked to do. “I wanted to engage her in activities that would relieve her of caring for her 1-year-old sister,” Irene says. Tisha said she liked cooking and reading.
That afternoon, Irene watched Tisha play games with her brothers and staff while a counselor cared for Anna. Tisha was beginning to relax.
The next day, the children learned that they were moving to a foster family home—together! Our social workers strive to keep siblings together, but a group of four is hard to place. Staff had persevered until they found a home for all the children.
Irene gave Tisha three books to take with her. “I encouraged her, when she felt overwhelmed, to take a moment to read her book,” Irene says. The teenager who arrived carrying so many burdens smiled. “The goal is to plant seeds,” Irene says, “in hopes the children will nurture themselves and continue to change in the future.”
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December 8, 2021