Most people don’t experience in an entire lifetime the trauma that Bobby* encountered before he was out of diapers.
He and his infant brother were removed from a horrific situation, leaving these two little boys terrified with memories cemented in Bobby’s mind that no adult could fathom. He saw things he couldn’t un-see, but he couldn’t describe them easily because they happened to him before he knew how to talk. His trajectory was forever changed because of the things that he witnessed and experienced.
The adults were supposed to take care of him. But they didn’t. Their own sin was expressed in terrible ways with drastic consequences and costs. Consequences and costs connected to children are what fill the foster care system with young lives looking for love, understanding and hope, and sometimes, the search for such securities are rooted in misguided and destructive anchors.
So there he was. A terrified, tantrum-throwing toddler. Bobby arrived at a FaithBridge foster home not only with his infant brother but also a letter. The letter explained that Bobby was a “handful.” The words on the page told the foster parents that food may help him calm down and that he had the ability to scream like no one had ever seen a child scream. Oh, and he was going to do so continuously.
The letter was an understatement. This family who had stepped up to care for these two boys already had one of their own, only slightly older than their new infant foster son, and they were all held hostage and controlled by the trauma that brought them these two new sons.
Bobby couldn’t leave the house. Each and every time they tried, there were paralyzing tantrums; his little body reacted in uncontrollable ways. He “would just rage for days at a time,” until he exhausted himself. And if he wasn’t screaming, he was trying to hurt himself – jumping off of anything he could climb, trying to throw himself down the stairs and running into walls.
He was terrified. Nothing and no one was safe. Sure, he’d be OK if someone was holding him. Sometimes.
“We tried multiple different therapy situations,” said Jill,* Bobby’s mom. “Play therapy. He saw a psychiatrist early on. He was two and a half and put on an anti-psychotic because they were afraid he’d hurt himself. It’s one of those things you never think you’d do…until you saw him.”
There were five therapists and four schools paving Bobby’s road to what seemed like a childhood trapped in fear with a hopeless future…until they met Dr. Miller at FaithBridge Psychological Services.
Dr. Miller was a game-changer.
Dr. Miller entered this child’s story and edited the predictable outcome to make a new outcome–one where he learned how to react to his anxiety and fear in healthy ways. Her boldness wouldn’t allow him to twist and turn his stories with manipulation. He could trust her. The stiff-walking, temper-tantrum-throwing little boy, over time, morphed into a normal boy who would run and play and laugh, who could go to school, who could learn to trust…who could be a little boy again.
“There were times that Bobby fought it, but he really learned over the years that he could really trust her, that he could open up to her and that she was someone he could talk about the scary stuff with,” said Jill. “He was able to communicate how he was feeling. He knew she was safe”
That safe relationship ushered hope into what looked to be a hopeless situation, and eventually, Bobby graduated from therapy. He won’t be seeing Dr. Miller every week, but in the years to come, she’ll be there for him when he needs her with an open door.
“She’s someone who will always be in our lives,” said Jill. “We’ll stop back in over the years when he has something going on. It was years and years of doctor’s appointments, therapies and medications. And a whole lot of praying. We’ve come really far!”
Bobby will always carry with him the scars from his past, and he will always see his own story and others through the lens of what happened. But the beauty of God’s grace and redemption is that the challenges have been and can be overcome. The battle was won on the cross over two thousand years ago for a little boy in elementary school today. His story was rewritten long before he was even born because of Jesus. And Jesus will continue to change and redeem what was done to write the pages of what will be.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the privacy of the child.