Parenting Adolescents with a Trauma History

I slung my backpack on my 14 year old shoulder and quietly closed the door to the hotel room
behind me. I had overheard something that had confirmed what I had long suspected: my
grandparents were lying to me. They were colluding with CPS in keeping my brothers from me.
Hot, angry tears slid down my cheeks as I realized I was truly alone. A thick self protective wall
had been building around my heart since the day I was removed from my parents care. On this
day, the day I realized no one cared about me, the final brick of that wall was firmly laid in place.
I was an angry teen. To look at me on the surface, you couldn’t always tell. Notes from my case
file speak to the self hatred that manifested as a “serious eating disorder” and “poor self
concept”. Yet I excelled in school and made friends easily. My hardened heart was drawn to the
wrong crowd, to the other kids from hard places. It was on the weekends with those friends that
I would drown my feelings in alcohol, numb my pain with drugs and dissociate through reckless
encounters with much older guys.
A few weeks before my 16th birthday, I took money out of my expense account my
grandparents had set up for me and I ran away for the last time. I actually wasn’t running away, I
was running toward something. Toward my family. Toward my mom. Staying with her didn’t last
long. It quickly became clear that nothing with her had changed and I would never be the priority
I needed to be. I bounced from there to my father, which also didn’t last long. At 16, I ended up
renting a room from my dad’s ex girlfriend and working at the Wendy’s drive thru. A 16 year old
high school drop out trying to figure out life on her own.
As is the case with more than 25% of former foster youth, I got pregnant that same year.
Thankfully, that pregnancy provided a purpose to my life, a reason to get up in the morning. And
my life slowly began to turn around.
To look at me now, at 45, one would never guess what my teenage years were like. I’ve been
married for a long time, I’m a mom to seven amazing kids (two by birth and five by adoption). I
have a Masters degree and own my own six figure business. Who I was then is not who I am
now. But, that girl is still there. The one that felt alone, scared, abandoned, betrayed and
discarded. The one that didn’t see hope for a future in those hard years.
Now, I spend my days advocating for girls like me. Girls like my adopted daughters. The kids
that are deemed unplaceable and end up in group homes and facilities. The kids that frustrate
and baffle the foster and adoptive parents that are brave enough to take them on because the
walls around their hearts seem impenetrable. The kids whose kinship caregivers fear will turn
out just like their parents.
One of the ways I do this is through coaching services for foster and adoptive families. As a
licensed therapist, former foster youth and foster/adoptive mama, I have vast personal and
professional knowledge about how to break through those walls, brick by brick. Stories from
families I’ve worked with have led me to develop PATH group (Parenting Adolescents with a
Trauma History). This is an educational support group for parents of children impacted by
trauma that are 12 years and up. We meet monthly on Zoom on the last Tuesday of the month.

If you are parenting a child like me, I would be honored to invite you in to our time together to
help you navigate the challenging and often murky waters of parenting a trauma affected teen.
Because their story now won’t be their story forever and you can play a pivotal role in helping
them write the next chapters.

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