Meet Maddie. She came to Children's Aid and Family Services with with just her stuffed bunny, Jelly Bean.
Like most children in our foster care, she had been terribly abused and neglected. She never knew if she would eat, or if she would go to the doctor when she was sick. She didn't have clean clothes to wear to school. She had no one to help with her homework. Maddie knew only deprivation in her life.
With a lot of nurturing, patience and structure, we are helping Maddie learned that she is an amazing and talented girl who deserves to be loved and cared for. We understand trauma: what it is, how it impacts children and most importantly, how to help children recover from it. This life-changing work is impossible without your help.
Please help us as we work to create better and safer futures for Maddie and the other children in our foster care.
Many of the children in our care have been through horrific trauma at such a young age. For them, the experience of these events can be difficult to express in words. Music can be the outlet they need to express what they’ve been through.
Creating art helps our children to positively channel their intense emotions and assists in their healing process. We asked some of the girls to paint the animal that they see themselves as.
Teaching a child who has been abused and neglected to have fun and enjoy simply being a kid is a big part of the healing process.
The animals at the farm welcomed Maddie, adding to the memories of a very special day.
Maddie and the other children at the group homes are supported with a comfortable and quiet space for studying, practicing the skills they learn at school and from their tutors and creative time.
The First Day
Maddie didn’t know what she had done wrong. A lady she had never met before had come to school that day to tell her she wasn’t going home. She asked her a lot of questions. She told her she was going to live in a house for a little while where she would be safe and taken care of, and she was going to take her there today.
At least Maddie had Jelly Bean, her stuffed bunny. Jelly Bean was her best friend. But Jelly Bean didn’t know where they were going either.
After what seemed like forever, they pulled up in front of a big house with a porch. Another lady was waiting by the door. She had a huge smile and told Maddie her name was Miss Jean and she couldn’t wait to get to know her.
Maddie wanted to cry but she knew she shouldn’t. Crying was bad. That’s what her step mother always told her. Maddie’s mother died three years ago when she was 3 years old. Maddie didn’t remember her too much, but she knew she was beautiful and very nice. Maddie’s father missed her mother too, and that’s why he wasn’t at home much. When he was home, he acted funny. She wished her mother were here now because she was so scared.
Miss Jean showed Maddie her bedroom and helped her put away the two outfits she had. Then she met the six other girls that lived in the house. Rosa was 8 years old and she was going to be Maddie’s roommate. Rosa said she had been there for six months and that the house wasn’t so bad and the staff that worked there was nice. Maddie listened to Rosa and held Jelly Bean tight.
Miss Jean asked Maddie to introduce her to Jelly Bean. Miss Jean said hello and talked to him just like Maddie did when she was alone. Maddie giggled a little. She kind of liked Miss Jean. She told Maddie that she would be safe here, that she would make friends and have fun.
Miss Jean went over the rules of the house as she showed Maddie the dining room and living room. When they got to the kitchen, Maddie saw a big spoon on the counter. It looked like the one her step mother had. She started to shake and she really wanted to cry. But crying was bad. Instead she screamed as loud as she could.
Miss Jean knelt down and asked her what was wrong. She put her hand on Maddie’s arm to help calm her, but Maddie pushed it away. Maddie asked what the spoons were used for. Miss Jean gently explained that they were only used for making really yummy food.
It was dinner time and Miss Jean showed Maddie her seat at the table. Maddie’s stomach was grumbling, and even though she was still scared, she wanted to eat. She had chicken, mashed potatoes and carrots. It tasted so good. Maddie was worried she might do something wrong and, as a consequence, wouldn’t be allowed to eat. This had happened a lot at home. When the dishes were being cleared, she stuffed some mashed potatoes and a little bit of chicken in her jeans pocket for later. It was hot and hurt her thigh but Maddie was good at not crying.
After dinner the girls played games for a little while. Rosa asked Maddie if she wanted to play Uno. Maddie didn’t know how and Rosa taught her how to play. But it was a hard game to figure out and Maddie lost. She got so mad she threw the cards at Rosa. Maddie knew she was going to get in big trouble and that she might not eat for a while. She was glad she had put the chicken and potatoes in her pocket.
Miss Jean asked her to go for a walk to the kitchen, and patiently explained that in this house, we use our words, not our hands. She told Maddie that she can always ask for help from the staff whenever she’s upset.
Miss Jean asked her what was in her pocket. Maddie was shaking on the inside she was so scared, but she wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t answer Miss Jean either. Miss Jean looked inside the pocket and found the remnants of dinner. She told Maddie she didn’t need to take food; if she was hungry, she just had to ask one of the staff. There were seconds at dinner and snacks in the house. Maddie nodded at her but she didn’t know if Miss Jean was telling the truth. Miss Jean cut up an apple for her to eat and Maddie was shocked but happy for the food.
It was bed time. Maddie hated the dark. She knew there were all sorts of monsters lurking around. She was really scared but she wouldn’t cry. Miss Deanna, a lady who worked with Miss Jean, checked under her bed and in the closet, showing her there were no monsters. She said everyone in the house was so strong that monsters wouldn’t think to come there. Maddie wasn’t so sure and she held Jelly Bean as close to her as she could.
Miss Deanna pulled out a book called “Elephant and Piggie” and asked if Maddie knew it. She shook her head no. Rosa told her it was a good book. Miss Deanna made funny voices for all of the characters. When the book ended Rosa told her she would stay awake until Maddie fell asleep and make sure they were safe. Maddie was so tired she nodded at Rosa and drifted off to sleep.
A New Friend
Today, Maddie and the other girls were going horseback riding. That’s what Miss Jean and Miss Jasmin told them as they were driving the girls to the farm. They drove over twisty roads and there weren’t many houses or buildings, just trees. It was different from anything Maddie had ever seen.
Miss Jean and Miss Jasmin were telling the girls the farm was a beautiful, peaceful place and they would be able to ride a horse. Maddie was scared and excited all at once. Her friend, Rosa, looked at her and said she would ride with her. “The ponies are nice, you’ll see Maddie.”
After what seemed like forever they arrived at the stable. A lady came out to greet them and tell them to walk slowly and quietly because they could scare the ponies if they were loud. Maddie understood that feeling. The teachers at the farm led Maddie and Rosa to a classroom where they sat at a table to learn about first aid. Maddie learned that sometimes horses have allergies. She even got to help Big Rascal use an inhaler for his asthma. He had a giant nose!
Now it was time to go to the ring. The horses were very tall. Maddie was paired with Evie, who had a white and black mane. With three teachers by her side, Maddie slowly climbed onto Evie. Maddie didn’t know if Evie would get mad and throw her off. The teachers told her that Evie was very sweet, just like Maddie, and she would be fine.
Evie started to slowly walk around the ring, and the butterflies in Maddie’s stomach went away. Maddie felt so big riding Evie. She saw the endless blue sky, the tall trees, the friendly cat that lived on the farm and the mountains. The air smelled so clean. She smiled.
When the ride was over, Maddie thanked Evie and patted her. She told Evie that she felt sad a lot but Evie made her feel happy. “Evie you remind me of Jelly Bean. You listen to me, too.”
She couldn’t wait to go back to the farm and see Evie again.
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A World of Books
Maddie had missed a lot of school when she lived with her father and stepmother and, as a result, reading was a struggle for her. When she went to live in the group home she began seeing a tutor every week. Mr. Eric was really tall and had a deep voice. Maddie wasn’t sure she liked him when he first came to the house. He had lots of books with him and he told Maddie that one day, she would love books like he did. He asked Maddie to pick one. She chose a book with a cat on the cover, because it reminded her of the cat that lived on the farm where she rode Evie the horse.
Mr. Eric said, “Let’s read this book together.” Maddie struggled but she was able to read the title, “Mrs. Muggles Learns to Read.” Mrs. Muggles is a cat who wears funny glasses when she reads. Maddie giggled as she and Mr. Eric took turns reading.
After school during study time at the house, Miss Jean or one of the staff would read with her, and at night before bed, her roommate Rosa would read an “Elephant and Piggie” book with her, helping her to sound out words that she didn’t know.
With all this practice, reading became easier for Maddie. She even started getting stars on her homework, and tried reading a book by herself. It was “Corduroy,” which was about a teddy bear that lived in a store and just wanted a home of his own. Maddie felt sad for Corduroy – he was alone like her. But the book got better. A little girl named Lisa brought him home with her and she took care of him. Maddie hoped she would find someone to take care of her, too.
To be continued...
Helping a traumatized child to begin to trust and start healing is a long process involving teaching, nurturing, and vast amounts of patience. It requires dedicated staff and a caring community. It is only with your help that we are able to help these wounded children get the medical, therapeutic, recreational and educational help they absolutely need to become strong and healthy and grow to be independent and productive citizens.
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