The children and youth we serve through our therapeutic residential programs have oftentimes experienced a severe amount of trauma in their lives. Pain, fear, discouragement and a sense of failure have unfortunately been themes weaved throughout their young lives.
Tommy came to the Center with a history of trauma and neglect, and unfortunately, without the support from his parents. As a trusted partner of the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency, Tommy was referred to the Center given our ability to treat and care for the most impacted youth. Tommy was unsafe to live in a traditional home setting and needed the highest level of therapeutic treatment on a 24/7 basis.
One factor that contributed to Tommy’s growth was his engagement in the community, an important component of our therapeutic Residential Programs. Our community engagement efforts connect children and youth with a structured activity in the community where they can learn new skills, feel successful in the community, and continue their passion for their chosen activity once they complete their therapeutic treatment.
Tommy was very athletic and expressed an interest of being involved in a community sport. He met with Nancy Adams, the Center’s Community Engagement Manager for Residential Programs to identify activities that he would be passionate about.
Nancy shares, “Tommy was a great athlete, but being coachable was a skill that he had to work on. By being involved in weekly practices and games, he had another setting to practice and work on skills he was learning in our therapeutic setting. This involved Tommy learning how to follow direction from his coach, improving on his social skills and anger management when he didn’t score a goal, and learning how to be a teammate rather than controlling the ball all the time.”
Tommy continued in other sports, which improved his ability to release anger while also developing self-regulation skills. Sports were Tommy’s outlet and through his positive changes, he became a role model to other children living at the Center. Not only were Tommy’s changes in his behavior recognized by his peers and his therapeutic team at the Center, but also by the father of a fellow teammate. This father learned that Tommy’s parents weren’t in his life by seeing Tommy’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) at games as he was in the foster care system. Inspired by his passion to help children, this father decided to adopt Tommy in order to provide him with a loving family and expose him to experiences that he was gifted as a child.
Nancy ensured that Tommy received a successful transition, as she does with every child discharged from the Center, to provide the resources necessary for continued success. Tommy received a backpack with soccer items and Nancy helped Tommy’s father enroll him in the Spring 2016 sports season. This current summer season, Tommy’s father was able to register him on his own, which is the goal of our community engagement efforts to create sustainability in activities after a child’s discharge.
Today, Tommy and his father are traveling across the country exploring new cities. Although Tommy has a new home and a new family, one thing remains constant which is his passion for sports and staying connected to the Center.
After the last soccer game of the spring season, Tommy huddled with his former Center peers to share something important from his heart.
“You guys need to work your program (meet treatment goals) and let them help you and listen to them, so you can get a great family like I have.”
Not only were Tommy’s peers inspired by his words, but also Nancy and other adults who were at the game. Mental illness is a topic that can be shunned and stigmatized by many. Though to see a young child, like Tommy, be proud of who he is, where he came from, and acknowledge the Center as something positive is quite powerful.
An important lesson can be learned from Tommy…we can find happiness in our lives if we’re willing to change and be open to receiving help.
To learn more about our Residential Programs, please click here.
*The child’s name has been replaced in order to protect their identity.