Please read through some of the sucess stories we have received from people in the community we have helped. Simply click on the name to open each.
If you, or a member of your family have reached the point where change is critical to your future, reach out to friends, parents, anyone who can help. If you feel you need professional support, we hope you will contact one of Family Continuity's programs. You can find out more by calling us at (866) 219-3320, or find more about services near you, visit our web-site at www.familycontinuity.org.
My family and I first became involved with Family Continuity a few years back. I must admit my children weren't too thrilled with the first few visits to the home for counseling - It was like pulling teeth without Novocain. The kids just weren't having it. Then our counselor, Norma brought a game with her and they really enjoyed it. She found a way to get them talking and playing at the same time. I must say it changed everything. We learned different techniques on how to talk to one another. My days became easier and less stressed. There even was a point when we didn't have a meeting, but the kids wanted to know when the next time was.
Before I knew it, there was stability in the house, less shouting and more communication. Let me tell you I can write a whole book on how much she helped me. I'm a single mother and there were days I could just cry, not knowing what to do, or how to handle the kids or myself. Sometimes I felt hopeless, like there would be no better days - it seemed like everything was so out of control. There was nothing for the kids to do so they were as frustrated as me. I don't want to take up too much of your time reading this because like I said, I could write a book.
Long story short, Family Continuity was the best thing that happened to my family. At first they were only strangers and now they are just like family. I am thankful and grateful and blessed to have had them. I've shared my blessing with other parents who are friends of mine who are where I was. For those who just don't know how much of an impact they made, I let them know with a smile on my face. The parenting groups are so fun and helpful. Like I said, I could write a book. But in a nutshell, I love Family Continuity - the perfect name because they are family.
This from Norma, the family's worker from Family Continuity's Lawrence Flexible Support program.
"I worked with this family about one year. Six months after we started working together, the mother was laid-off from her job and she thought her entire world would "fall apart". She could have given up, instead she worked hard to be consistent in implementing what she learned and six months later the family had made amazing progress, they were stable, happy, and we were able to discharge them since they no longer needed our services. Today, the mother is an advocate for her 2 children in the school system and in the community. It was truly a pleasure to work with this family."
Occasionally, families come to us with simple problems, ones that we can help with quickly and simply. More often, their needs are complicated. We may be able to help them, but to do so, we need help too. Because of this, Family Continuity works closely with a multitude of organizations in all of its communities. Last month, our Family Partners program received this letter from a family, expressing their thanks to a whole team of folks from the schools, to area social service agencies, that came together and rallied around their family.
"One year ago today Randy was hospitalized in the Child Assessment Unit. It was the darkest day of our lives. We didn't know it at the time but it was the best thing that could have happened. We learned a lot and we were put on the path we still follow today. All of you are in our lives due to this hospitalization. A year ago, JT and I felt hopeless but today all we see is hope. With your help, Randy is happy again and his behavior and mood are manageable. Our home is not the house of horrors it was for six months. We have tough days but we have more good and great days mixed in! We are all happier and in a better place!
There is still work to be done but we know it will get done! You are all so wonderful. You are kind hearted, committed and caring. What I like most is you are consistent and hold Randy to a high standard. It's one I know he can meet. We know how lucky we are to have this „dream team‟. Thank you so much for all you do for our family. Thank you for your patience and for caring so much about Randy. He is a lucky child!
Gina and JT"
"Supporting family success in every community" is our mission. But just how do you describe a family's "success?" This recent letter provides at least one family's answer to the question.
To the Staff of Family Continuity, Therapeutic Home Care: A letter of THANKS!
From: Timothy's Mom and Dad
Our son Timothy is 14, in the eighth grade, and has struggled most of his life with ADHD and mood disorder. Tim is a teenager, and like most teens, balks at the idea of "counseling," but the improvement that we have seen here at home is remarkable. With the help of Tim's advocate and our family counselor, we work at all being on the same page as far as what we want to accomplish, and how are we going to do it. Their advice has been invaluable. We have seen such growth and maturity, in all of us really. Our overall communication has improved, as well as our ability to set expectations and work as a team to accomplish them. Tim is more cooperative with household activities (including chores) and has been able to set goals for himself: he is learning that he has to earn privileges by accepting more responsibilities. Thanks to the support of Family Continuity, this last year has been so much more successful!
Our progress is shown in one small story. When we first began with Family Continuity, we were asked as parents, what would one thing be that you would like to see happen or change? It seems like such a superficial thing, but we both replied that it would be wonderful to take a family vacation - a successful family vacation. We felt trapped at home and missed being able to share one of our passions, travel, with the family.
Well, this past week we took a family vacation for the first time in years and it was WONDERFUL. We laid a lot of groundwork, preparing Tim for new experiences. We were able to set expectations for appropriate behavior and Timothy was, for lack of a better word, awesome. He handled himself beautifully during "boring" times and "anxious" times. He was polite and respectful to people. I firmly believe that all the preparations we made, with the help of Family Continuity, made all the difference.
We have learned to accept input from "the experts" to help us in difficult times, and we appreciate any advice and guidance they can offer. They have been there through it all and Tim knows there is a whole team of people looking out for him. That is important, even if at 14 he doesn't fully appreciate it, and I know that when things get hard, Family Continuity is only a phone call away.
So thank you everyone at Family Continuity! Thank you for being kind and professional. Thanks for advising when necessary and listening when we just needed to vent. Thanks for making Tim feel special. It's great to have you on our team.
Usually, our “Real Stories” come from Family Continuity families and staff. This month however, and in keeping with the theme describing the impact of trauma on individuals and families, we’d like to share Nicole’s story, an Iraq war vet, and how the trauma of wartime can affect a family, even after a parent’s return home.
Blamed for My War Wounds
Child protection left me feeling ashamed and angry. Preventive services support me.
BY NICOLE GOODWIN (RISE Magazine)
When I came home from serving my country in Iraq, I also brought home a lot of war wounds inside of me. Over time, my symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder grew harder and harder to handle, and made it harder and harder for me to take care of my daughter.
Eventually I was found guilty of neglecting my daughter and I ended up separated from her for six months. During those six months, my caseworker changed three times. Each time the caseworker changed, I felt like I was on trial again, having to recite my personal information concerning the case and all the things that had gone wrong in my life that led to my daughter’s removal.
While my daughter was in foster care, caseworkers showed up from time to time to monitor me. I found those moments to be intrusive and intimidating, and I found the whole process disrespectful: they often showed up late or sometimes not at all. The most irritating factor was that every service I requested—because I really did want to get my life together—was denied. The explanation always was: “We just don’t have it in the budget.” Most of the steps I took and most of the programs I joined to get better I initiated myself.
After my daughter came home, I was referred to preventive services. The first agency I went to didn’t offer me much, and I always worried that they might call child protective services on me if something went wrong in my family. But a year ago, I found a new preventive service agency, the Association to Benefit Children, and I finally feel like I have a partner that supports me.
A Partner in Parenting
Now I still have mandatory home visits from the caseworker, but ABC showed me they understand and respect the demands on my life by adjusting the scheduling of those visits to fit my schedule. They also have performed all sorts of actions that go above and beyond the basic requirements.
I take a Parenting Journey class at their offices that has given me a chance to reflect on the way I was raised and how I raised my own daughter, and to be part of a community.
They have helped me with practical matters, too, like help with transportation. They have connected me with services that benefit my family, like a referral to family therapy, and a summer camp for my daughter. And they go out of their way to stay connected to me. They call to make sure I keep my appointments, and if I miss an appointment, they call to inquire about how I am doing.
Increased Confidence, Better Parenting
It’s not as if my preventive service agency has become my best friend. It hasn’t. But I do feel like the workers try to understand what is unique about my family and the unique demands on our lives.
That has made a big difference to me. Before I felt like I couldn’t speak my mind and that I was blamed for every little thing. I found it hard to make decisions as a parent, and to trust those decisions. Now I feel validated, and that makes me feel a lot more capable. Before I just felt angry, overwhelmed, and bogged down with shame and guilt. Now I get the sense that I am always able to improve.
Just as nothing is more painful to a parent than the struggles of her child... nothing is more gratifying than regaining a child who once was lost as this letter from Kevin's mother shows...
I would like to tell you the story of my son Kevin. I have been a single mother his whole life. Our journey through the system began when my son was in elementary school and was a very active, perhaps overly energetic child. I brought him to a therapist and he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As he got older, he became more frustrated with authority and began to be disrespectful towards teachers and myself. His therapist and psychiatrist began to talk to me about the possibility that he may have a mood disorder in addition to his ADHD. He continued therapy and tried medications to address these challenges, but as he entered a charter middle school, he began to act more aggressively than in the past. Soon, we made our first trip to the emergency room for a psychiatric screening Things went from difficult to worse. Over the course of a year, Kevin went through an endless series of treatment programs and supports (day treatment, hospitals, acute residential treatment, family stabilization, CHINS, educational advocacy to obtain an Individual Education Plan).
Kevin was approved for services through the Department of Mental Health (DMH) while he was at his last acute residential treatment placement. It was time to act and make sure he got into a stable setting where he wouldn't be missing school for his frequent hospitalizations. He had deteriorated so much in one year time, I couldn't stand to watch it go on any longer. DMH agreed and Kevin was placed in a specialized foster care program, through Family Continuity's Therapeutic Home Care Team. This was the best thing that could have happened to him. He was given an advocate, we were given weekly family therapy and he was safe. Having a father figure in his life helped him to stabilize to such a great amount it was unbelievable.
Kevin is now home and beginning to transition back to public school. He hasn't had school problems for over a year. He is almost 15, a freshman in high school and is a straight "A" student now. He plays football on the public high school team, and even scored a touchdown. He is now playing on their basketball team and he has made new friends. We have a wonderful relationship and will be leaving the Family Continuity program.
He is a true "success story" of how hard work and appropriate help can make a huge difference.
Sometimes a little help at the right time can go a long way. This is especially true when a family has worked hard, and has made great progress, as this "Family Support Fund" request from Bonnie's Family Partner demonstrates...
Bonnie is a divorced mother of four (and a great advocate for her kids), who recently lost her job for a few months. She receives $125/month for child support for all of her children, as well as food stamps. She shares a home with her brother and his wife and kids. When her son Bryan, aged 9 came to us he was shy, extremely anxious and would wet himself during the day and would not play with other kids his age. In the five months he's been with wraparound (the CBHI family partners and care coordination program), he has progressed significantly, rarely has "accidents", listens better and follows directions, helps out at home, interacts with his peers, uses words to express frustration and fear, and participates in his care planning meetings.
His neuropsychological evaluation made a point to recommend ongoing opportunities to work on socialization with peers. His elementary school had discussed including him in their summer program, but due to funding cuts, only two hours of individual tutoring was made available. So far this summer he has spent his time at home with his siblings and his mother. As a way of transitioning back to the social demands of school, Bonnie has applied for Bryan to attend a two week summer camp at Sunset Pond, sponsored by the local Rec. Commission. In June Bonnie applied for a scholarship, but was told that all of the funding had been awarded, and that cuts would not support further funding.
She requested $220 from the Family Support Fund, through her family partner. Her request was granted, and on August 15th, Bryan started camp.
We don't know how he will do, but what we do know is that the Fund made it possible to help Bryan learn to socialize with kids his own age, to prepare for a successful school year, and for a young mother to know that her effort turned into something special for her family. Parents like Bonnie are your neighbors, your co-workers, and even members of your own family. Although circumstances can cause them to struggle alone, with help, they achieve tremendous things.
An increasing number of "real stories" begin like this one, when hard times hit a "regular" family.
Family Continuity's Home-Based program has been working with a local family, who had recently begun having behavioral problems with one of their children. The father had built and owned a very successful business and the family had a nice home in a great neighborhood. On a recent Friday afternoon, clinicians went to visit the family at home, like all appointments, to work with one of the parents and kids. While they were there, they found out that the electricity had been shut off and they could not get hold of someone to turn it back on. They couldn't pay their bills and were close to losing their home. So the clinicians went out and bought flashlights so the family would have some light, as well as ice to keep the food in the refrigerator fresh until Monday. The clinicians worked with St. Vincent de Paul to help to pay to put the electricity back on.
The reason was that the husband's business had filed bankruptcy and they had no income. Out of shame, the husband had not told his family of the financial situation, until there was nothing left. The sudden economic turn resulted in added stress to the marriage, an effort to hide through the use of alcohol, and an increase in the emotional needs of the family members, especially the children. The financial struggles did not create the problems the family was having, but they did tip them over the edge Although they had been managing previously, this added a whole new layer of service needs for this family who had been focusing on the behavior of the kids, now to basic life needs of food, shelter, and family stability.
This story is very typical of many of the families we work with throughout Massachusetts and indicates the impact that the economy is having on family life. With added supports, the family is once again making progress, and dealing better with the new realities. It once again highlights a truth that we at Family Continuity know well, and that is that every family will struggle at some point. Most will push through it, but we all may require help some day.
Voices in Her Head
My mother's mental illness haunts us both.
By: Shannel W.
When I was 4 years old, my mother went into the hospital. We found out she had a mental illness called schizophrenia. After that, she was in and out of the hospital a lot.
A year later, my mom left me in our apartment by myself. A social worker found me looking like a mess and brought me to live with my grandmother.
Still, I remember that my mom and I were close when I was little. I wanted a pet so my mom got me a cat named Lulu. I also had a little jewelry box. I used to put on jewelry and my mother's shoes and play dress up.
My mother and I would go to the park to jump rope and play hand games. We would watch my favorite video, Michael Jackson's "Do You Remember the Time?" We would sing along and dance until we both got in bed to sleep.
Do I Know This Person?
Over the years, my mother changed because of her sickness. She gained weight from the medicine and she had mood swings, heard voices and seemed confused.
When my mother starts to get worse, she acts scared and calls me up to say she hears voices, and that someone from her past is telling her they are going to take me away. She sometimes says, "I'm gonna kill myself," or, "Someone's gonna kill me."
Other times she'll look at me like I am someone she does not know. Once in the kitchen I tapped her and she turned around and asked, "Who are you?" I said, "Shannel."
Then she remembered and said, "Oh, what is it that you wanted, baby?" I know that she does not know how she is acting.
Whenever my mother is doing better I feel hopeful that her illness will go away forever, and that we can live together as mother and daughter. My mom stayed out of the hospital for a whole year once. But this year, she was in and out of the hospital about 11 times.
When she does a 180, I think to myself, "Do I know this person? Who is she? Who is this inside my mother's body?" I try to tell her, "Wake up!" but it does not work.
I know my mother's sickness is not like a broken leg, where a doctor can patch her back up again. Still, she knows to put herself in the hospital when she's getting sicker. "If she can do that," I wonder, "Why can't she make herself better? "
Not having my mother, I've felt unhappy, angry and confused inside. I am grateful to be living with my grandmother but I want my mommy.
I've never told my grandmother how I feel, but I think she knows. My grandmother often asks me, "Did you talk to your mother today?" I'm glad that my grandmother encourages me to visit my mother and makes sure that my mother feels welcome in our house.
"Reprinted with permission from Rise Magazine, Copyright 2010 by Youth Communication/New York Center, Inc. (www.youthcomm.org)."
Kenny Pierre, Family Continuity Board Member, has been a Direct Care Youth Counselor at Northeast American Family Institute (NAFI) and has over 15 years of personal experience within the child welfare system. Kenny was a volunteer mentor for Project Youth Empowerment Services (Y.E.S.), a summer camp counselor at the YMCA of the North Shore and spent three years working with youth at risk from the Department of Youth Services. Kenny graduated from Bunker Hill Community College with an A.S. in Criminal Justice and is soon to graduate with his B.S. in Criminal Justice at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
I am 22 years old, and shortly will be graduating from college with my Bachelors Degree. Soon, I expect to pursue a full time career working with children and youth, perhaps for DYS, or one of its nonprofit providers. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished, but getting here has been a long and difficult journey.
I was born in Haiti, and moved with my family to Massachusetts before I could remember, settling in Medford. When I was 6 years old, I was removed from my home by DSS (now DCF) because of reports from my school and their suspicion that I was being abused at home. I was sent to a group home, where I spent the next two years. It was not a happy experience, I felt like I was dumped there, with my worker rarely visiting, and my family not making me feel very welcome at home either. When they said I could leave, I didn’t return home, but was sent to live with my grandmother in Haiti for a couple of years. It was different, but I did settle in. When I was sent back to my home in Medford, I realized that I’d missed a lot. I’d been out of US schools, I didn’t have any friends, I was used to speaking Creole, I was behind in class, and I began to get into trouble once again. In pretty short order, I was back in group care. From the time I was 11 until I graduated high school I spent most of the rest of my childhood living in group homes, treatment centers, and eventually at Family Continuity’s SAIL Independent Living Program.
During most of this time, I rarely saw my worker, I went on few home visits, and really just felt dumped. Sometimes I got close to staff who would leave. Other times, I couldn’t get along with staff, who it seemed would never leave. Mostly though, I was just always aware that I wasn’t a regular kid, I didn’t fit. I was big and strong and a good athlete, but instead of that working for me, I think I may have intimidated some of the staff. So, I basically shut down, and kept to myself. These were not happy times because I couldn’t figure out who to go to for advice or friendship.
When we were talking about my working on this article, Skip told me something that I really think applied to me. He said that a friend had once told him that kids are all different, they need a lot of different things, but the one thing that every single kid needs is some adult to be absolutely crazy about them. I don’t know why some people attach themselves to you, when others turn their backs, but this was me, and until I found that person, I was going nowhere.
I was sent to SAIL to help me prepare for life on my own, and also began to attend Beverly High School. Here is where I met that person, or perhaps I should say persons. SAIL staff Amy and Kathy really took an interest and stuck by me. At the high school, the principal took time also and became my friend and supporter. He still is today. With more confidence, I did well at SAIL and at Beverly High. I tried out for football, made the team, and played for 2 years. On the team I felt like I fit in, I like team sports. I went to the junior prom, I felt normal, like a regular kid. Each of these was an opportunity for me to live life like everyone else, to be independent. Each of these were little turning points for me, and I did well. When I graduated I went to Bunker Hill Community College, and then to UMass Boston, where I’ll graduate from soon.
Skip posed a few questions to me to help others help others understand and improve the foster care system, here they are, and these are my answers:
“What advice do you have for other kids coming into the “system”? My advice is, don’t let your situation define you, be who you are, not who they expect you to be. Find something to give you a better focus, like sports, or reading, or a hobby. You have a lot of time on your hands growing up, without focus, you won’t go anywhere. Finally, find someone to care about you, and not give up on you.
“What things should the child welfare system consider if it wants to do better by the kids and families they serve?” Please don’t let kids feel forgotten. A family visit, or even a worker who shows up makes a big difference in making a kid feel important. Give them more chances, and if they can handle it, freedom to be like other kids. Please don’t let your staff be overwhelmed and undertrained.
“What do you want for your life?” I want to graduate, and stay in the field of helping people. I have worked part time while I’ve been in school, with delinquent kids and really enjoy it. Mostly, I want to have my own family. I want to have family that chats at dinner, does normal things with each other. More than anything, I want to have no unfinished business. I mean, that now that I’m on my own, I have a lot of life to live, a lot of things to do.
How do you know when you’ve made a difference? Our work is demanding, sometimes chaotic, leaving too little time for reflection. Sometimes when we end our work with a family, we wonder how their lives changed once they moved on from our programs. This is why it is very gratifying to receive a note like the one we got from “Michael”, the father of one of the boys, we served in our Peabody based THC program…
My son Ben recently graduated from Family Continuity’s Therapeutic Home Care program. We are very proud of our Ben's growth and effort to become the person he is today.
I want to take this opportunity to personally express my sincere appreciation to the entire Family Continuity staff for going above and beyond to make the program successful for us. We will always remember their guidance, care, kindness, concern, flexibility, and hard work. FCP was responsive to our needs. The program helped us identity, anticipate and form successful strategies to deal with problem areas. We were given the knowledge and tools to create better ways to improve Ben’s coping skills as well as our own. FCP helped us re-think our family, and was instrumental in restructuring family dynamics. Although we had a lot of work to do, the goals we set with Ben were realistic and achievable. Ben, and the whole family were able to build on our strengths and learn to accept and deal with our weaknesses.
My ex-wife, Barbara was a tireless advocate for Ben, but we struggled to get the help we needed. Ben, Barbara, and our other son Joe, and I felt lost at times. The staff were not only great advocates for Ben. They went out of their way to visit him during the rough times when he was in the hospital as well as standing up for Ben at his high school and educational planning meetings. I do not believe we would have seen the great progress we achieved without the expert help we received. As a family we have been blessed and privileged to work with Family Continuity. With renewed hope and strength, we look forward to the next chapter in our precious son, Ben's life.
Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in every community, with families often terrorized, and effective help not always available. Yet, when families and professionals work together, sometimes help can be found from unexpected sources that can make all of the difference to keep a family safe. We often see this through the work of our family partners. Family Continuity’s Family Support and Training (FS&T) program, informally known as “Family Partners” is not there to provide therapy, but rather to support families through the complex and sometimes frightening events of their daily lives, to help them gain control and become stronger, self-reliant families.
Recently the story of Mrs. B. brought this home. She and her children were long-time victims of serious domestic violence that involved repeated life-threatening assaults. Eventually, she brought charges and the perpetrator was convicted and jailed. But the nightmare did not stop. During his incarceration, he had continuously written threatening letters to Mrs. B., with a plan for what he would do to get revenge when he was released from jail. He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, yet was receiving no real treatment in prison, and his release date was rapidly approaching. Mrs. B. sought help, but was told that there was little that could be done. The week before the release, in helping Mrs. B. prepare for her safety, the Family Partner brainstormed with the mom and the care planning team and it was decided to contact the local police to have them do a home safety assessment. Restraining orders had already been put in place, but since these hadn’t worked in the past, the Partner and Mrs. B. felt that those safeguards were not foolproof. Recommendations included adding additional outside lighting to each corner of the home to light up the exterior and other things such as better ways to secure windows and doors. Another safety recommendation was that the family have a burglar alarm installed at the home, which the family could not afford.
When all hope was thought to be lost, the Family Partner “happened” to be sharing the dilemma about this unidentified family-in-need with someone at the local builders’ association whose office was downstairs from the Family Continuity office. He in turn persuaded a builder to install the alarm in the family home at no cost as a good will gesture and as a way to support the family with this critical and desperate situation. Because this work could not be completed until a couple of days after the perpetrator’s release date, a request was also made of Family Continuity’s Family Support Fund to pay for a two night motel stay for the family at a safe location until the work could be completed and until police and probation were aware of the perpetrator’s return.
This Family Partner, like all of our staff was responsible for knowing her community and its resources, building this relationship over time, and doing whatever it takes to support the family. Her interactions with the builder helped him understand the work we do and the nature of the needs of the families we serve. Says the Family Partner’s supervisor, “I actually think, knowing this Partner, that connection with the builder wasn’t at all happenstance; she has a way of making relationships that foster the person’s desire to help. And she knew that they would have the resources to help this family. Mrs. B. was in tears when the Family Partner went out to the home to tell her. I agree – it is all about building community relationships. It’s amazing what can happen!” Another example of our motto- meeting needs whatever, wherever, and whenever they are needed.
Sometimes our “Real Stories” come in the form of “thank-you” letters from parents or relatives of our clients, other times our staff relate the experiences of the families and individuals with whom they work. Last week, unsolicited and quite by surprise, we were lucky enough to receive this essay from a young person involved with our Therapeutic Mentoring program in Peabody. It was her 4th grade assignment, in response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When I Grow Up
When I grow up I want to be a Therapeutic mentor. I'd like to be a mentor because they help people with special problems. Everyone has problems but these special problems need more care than others do. My family has some special problems and we have a Therapeutic mentor. Some of the problems can be suicidal thoughts, drugs, really bad stress, and anxiety. I love to help people and this is how I want to help people. I know what some people might be going through and I want to help them get through it.
The company I want to work for is Family Continuity. I want to work there because that's where my Therapeutic mentor works. Also I want to work there because I've had a good experience with them. It's very child friendly. Last, it is the closest counseling center to Peabody, where we live. That is why I want to work as a therapeutic mentor for Family Continuity.
P.S. The name of the City of Peabody school wide contest that Sam entered her essay in was the “Positive & Healthy Living Essay Contest”.
Says her Family Continuity Mentor, Loren: “I knew nothing about this until the Mom told me that my client won an award in her class for the best essay and showed the essay to me! Needless to say, this is what makes it all worthwhile and it made my day! Thought it would make yours too – who knows, she may be a future employee someday!”