At a recent meeting, a couple of staff members began sharing a “success” story. Listening to the excitement in the voices of the social worker and the child advocate as they described the smile of this young man, we knew we had to know more about his story. We share it with you here.
Marshall never smiled much. A lot of teenagers can be sullen, but with Marshall, it was different. He constantly acted out with adults and had issues with his peer groups. At school, things weren’t working and he was suspended numerous times, impacting his grades. With little supervision from home and less support, the situation worsened over time; he was aggressive, threatening, gang involved, insubordinate, etc., etc. until, not surprisingly, it all ended in criminal charges. He was 14 years old.
That was when CFCR staff first met him, got involved and came to know his story. Marshall had suffered so much loss in his young life and witnessed horrific events in his community with family members and friends, including the death of a cousin who had been like a father to him. Violence, substance abuse, mental health issues in his family; chaos and conflict far beyond what any child should witness. When Council staff became his advocate, they worked hard to partner with him to ensure he had a voice and that his many needs, from all aspects of his life, were being met.
But it hasn’t been a smooth or easy journey. Staff was able to link Marshall to a variety of treatment services, but not all of them recognized the trauma that had so significantly impacted his life and toll it had taken on his childhood. Failure took hold more often than success at first, but Council staff never gave up and continued to advocate tirelessly for Marshall in all areas of need: school treatment, community and home. Despite what other thoughts, they believed that Marshall was not the “bad kid” who could not helped and they fought for him.
Finally, someone listened. At Council’s urging, Marshall was referred for a thorough assessment to determine was treatment options could save him from this path of destruction. Based on the severity of his charges, Marshall could have been sent to a Youth Development Center for several years. But his CFCR team helped the court to see a holistic picture of this troubled young man’s needs (many of which were unmet/underserved) and trauma history. The court listened and ultimately decided to keep him out of the Youth Development Center so that he could receive community-based treatment.
CFCR staff found and placed him in a program that provided a supportive, strength based environment that gave Marshall the structure he so desperately needed. With support from the caring individuals that now surround Marshall and working with the family on implementing supervision, structure, rewards and consequences; Marshall has begun to feel safe and supported. Marshall is now in an alternative education setting, an environment that allows him to accomplish his goals.
It has taken a multi-disciplinary team that has refused to give up on Marshall to get him to where he is today. His CFCR team has had to advocate for additional/different services throughout the process and has closely monitored service provision to make sure Marshall has been receiving the type and quality of services he deserves.
It is has been more than worth the effort. Prior to his last court hearing, Marshall was curled up in the corner of a room crying and threatening to kill himself. Today, his foster parents have gotten him involved in different outdoor activities like kayaking. He participates in a work force development program in addition to pursuing his GED. He also participates in grief counseling groups to feel supported and help deal with all the loss and trauma.
And most importantly, the boy who never smiled has been transformed and safety and happiness can be seen radiating from his bright smile and demeanor every day.