In his short life, Xavier* experienced so much trauma. His parents battled substance use disorders, which caused him and his siblings to be neglected. Child Protective Services became involved, and Xavier lived in several foster homes before moving in with his adoptive family at age 5.
As a result of his early childhood experiences, Xavier was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His body and mind were in constant fight, flight, or freeze mode. He thought adults could not be trusted to meet his needs. He had difficulty sleeping and would hide food to make sure he wouldn’t go hungry. At the same time, he was grieving for the past life he had lost – the toys, kids and pets he had to leave behind. Despite all he had endured, he still loved his biological parents and struggled to reconcile those feelings.
For Xavier, school felt like a war zone.
The sights, sounds, and smells were constant triggers for him. He would run from the classroom and hide in a locker or restroom. If someone tried to contain him, he would lash out, hitting or kicking anything in his way. It took all his energy just to make it through the school day, so he fell behind academically.
Xavier also struggled at home. Adjusting to this new setting and respecting boundaries was a challenge. His relationship with others was strained. Everyone walked on eggshells around him. His adoptive parents were at a loss of how to help him.
Then Xavier and his adoptive parents started therapy at The Village Family Service Center. Through therapy, Xavier learned new coping strategies, and his parents were taught how to nurture him in ways that he had missed out on.
As a small child would learn to do instinctively, Xavier finally began to make eye contact with his parents. He started to believe caring adults would meet his needs. He became more engaged, animated, and happy. His ever-present scowl was slowly replaced with full-face, toothy grins. He finally felt what all children should feel – he felt safe.
As the family prepared to move to a new house in a different town, therapy allowed his parents to reassure Xavier that this move would be different than others he had experienced. No one would be left behind or separated. His favorite toys and clothes would be going with them. It was going to be a fresh start as one cohesive family.
Thanks to therapy, Xavier is a changed kid.
He is now equipped with the skills and emotional regulation to handle the stressors of school and home. Teachers describe him as quiet and likable. He has lots of friends and is making consistent academic gains. At home, he can share his thoughts and feelings. He interacts with his siblings in an appropriate way and functions within the boundaries his parents set. He sleeps and eats better, and is a calmer, more joyful little boy.
Had it not been for The Village, Xavier’s mom says he likely would not be able to be in a mainstream classroom or participate in after-school activities. He, and the whole family, likely would have needed much more intensive, time-consuming, and costly interventions and supports. While there is still work to be done in therapy, the results have been much more dramatic than his adoptive parents ever imagined.
*Name changed to protect client’s identity
This article originally appeared in The Village's 2019 Annual Report.