One Child, One Therapist/An innovative program partners foster children with therapists for as long as they’re needed, providing a stability otherwise missing
When child psychologist Norman Zukowsky first met him, 6 1/2-year-old “William” had already lived through more hardship and trauma than many people experience in a lifetime.
He was born exposed to drugs and alcohol,one of three children of a drug-addicted mother who lived in an unheated garage with no cooking or bathroom facilities.
Child welfare reports suggest that the children were physically abused, exposed to sexual behavior and often went without food or clothing. Eventually, William was
removed from his mother’s care only to be placed with a relative who scarred his chest beating him with a belt.
My own experience with this kind of trauma has more to do with placing really damaged children with foster parents unable to manage the behaviors of violent and troubled children often on psychotropic medications. Recently, listening to St Joe’s Home For Children in Hennepin County discuss (at the Task Force Oversight Hearings) their problems meeting the needs of these kids (and the Casey Foundation’s analysis of these exact circumstances) it occurs to me just how overwhelmed our mental health systems are for treating traumatized children.
Psychotropic medications are taking the place of badly needed mental health services and children are suffering. If we ever expect to escape the cloud of violent children becoming violent and unstable adults, we will have to face this problem.
The reality is much sadder and much more painful when you are there with the child – who knows he’s not “normal” and wants so badly to fit in with school and his peers. But he can’t and it won’t happen until we help him.