Katie and Sarah dealt with the unthinkable behind closed doors. At school, they were thought of as the "difficult students." Being only a year apart, they relied on each other for support and showed many of the same behaviors: verbal aggression, physical altercations, biting and hitting other youth at school, disrespectful towards others, and low achievement in school.
One teacher in particular saw the potential in them. Katie and Sarah began confiding in their teacher and disclosed information about their home life that was very concerning and raised suspicion of physical and verbal abuse. Wanting to help the children, the teacher made a referral to Wraparound. At the time, Katie was 16 and Sarah was 17, and both girls were living with their mother and father. At the initial meeting with the Wraparound Facilitator, the parents refused to allow Katie to enroll in services, but the older sister, Sarah was able to make the decision to work with us on her own given she was 17. Several months later, the Facilitator was able to work with Sarah and build a Plan of Care that included some specific supports in school. Not wanting to give up on Katie, the Facilitator continued to reach out to the family, and after 2 months, Sarah and Katie's mother decided to attend the Child and Family Team Meeting (CFT). After seeing the accomplishments Sarah had in such a short time, their mother requested Wraparound to start working with Katie.
As Katie and Sarah progressed through the wraparound process, they disclosed more of their story:
Katie and Sarah's parents were not always around when they were younger leaving them and their other brothers and sisters to fend for themselves. The girls were sexually abused by a family member multiple times when they were younger. Katie and Sarah never received counseling nor any other form of therapy to process the events that happened while they were young. Still the girls refused to see anyone outside of their Facilitator, because they did not trust anyone. Over time, the Facilitator convinced the girls to work with an Independent Living/Skills Builder and Psychiatric Rehabilitation provider.
As the girls began to talk about their future, both of them spoke on going to college and moving out of their parent's home since they were unsupportive and abusive. In one particular CFT, the team discussed strategies on how to approach their mother. When the girls built up the courage, they approached their mother on moving into their Aunt's home. Katie and Sarah made the difficult decision to move in with their aunt. This led them to be cut off from their parents, but they knew the decision was best for them. They were ready to start a new life.
Katie had a very strong senior year of High School. She began making good grades in all of her classes. The team, now including the girls' Aunt and cousin, began trying new things to help Katie cope with her emotions. Katie learned she was worth more than the gashes in her arm. The relationships around her began to grow, and she began to trust others enough to start new friendships at school. The nightmares, the cutting, and the self hate were no longer, and she knew she wanted more for herself.
Katie and Sarah moved in with their godmother in order to have a safe place to live while they got all of their paperwork for college together. Their parents did not want them to go to college and did all they could to keep Katie and Sarah from moving forward in their life.
Despite the setbacks, Katie and Sarah had a team to support them and get them enrolled into college.
To think back and realize all of this occurred because of one teacher. Seeing the potential past the disruptive behavior. All of us are born with two identities. One includes our family's history and what would be the "societal norm," and the other is stepping up to our greatest potential. Many people don't step away from the generational hold that society places on us. It's not due to laziness or not wanting a change, but the difficulty of stepping outside of the boundaries we place around ourselves and walking into the unknown. No one should have to walk through life by themselves, and it was not until Katie and Sarah opened up to help that they were able to start anew:
Katie is currently a Psychology major and wants to be a counselor in order to help children that don't know how to process what they are feeling.
Sarah is enrolled in a pre-doctorate program. Since she started college, she has experienced a resurgence of anxiety and anger, but took it upon herself to reach out to a counselor to help her manage these strong emotions.