After sending two children off to college, Jessica and Michael Hancock looked forward to seeing their youngest son graduate from high school. The passing of a close relative turned their lives upside down and left a young boy in crisis. As a toddler, Brody watched his birth father lose a battle with cancer. Brody’s mom was incarcerated and battling opioid addiction. Instead of feeling the warmth and closeness of a family, Brody was experiencing the long-term effects of neglect and the physical effects of intrauterine drug exposure.
Michael and Jessica knew they could not let Brody end up in the child welfare system. They understood that “it was foster care or us.” Michael credits his strong faith with the decision to walk the path of kinship adoption. He acknowledges that “I am my brother’s keeper” and “everything happens for a reason.”
The adoption process took two and a half years as they waited for Child Protective Services to approve a permanency plan after Brody’s biological mother lost her parental rights. The cost of attorney and court fees and the worry that Brody’s birth mom might protest the adoption weighed heavily on the Hancocks. Through the process, Michael and Jessica struggled to navigate the Child Welfare System and they worried about how kinship adoption would impact their marriage, other children, and their finances.
“Kinship adoption is not for the light-hearted. It is disheartening and not financially feasible for a lot of people. With kinship adoption, there is no support.”
They persevered and at last celebrated adoption day along with close family members who had been a great support through the journey. However, their challenges with Brody were just beginning. Brody was struggling with meltdowns, defiance at preschool and constant “attention-seeking” behaviors. The start of the school year was rocky. Brody had never been around kids his age.
“There were lots of tears. We felt isolated.”
As a board-certified behavioral analyst, Jessica understood many of Brody’s challenges, but she was not trained to address trauma. Brody’s play therapist recommended Chosen. A 13-week program with Chosen helped Jessica and Michael to recognize the meaning behind Brody’s behaviors and respond more effectively. Their Chosen Care Manager gave them tools to promote attachment and prevent Brody from falling into a fight or flight response. Chosen also taught Jessica and Michael how to manage the challenges that are common to children going who have experienced chronic early childhood stress. Jessica knew that without addressing the trauma he experienced, Brody’s health and behaviors would have become worse and worse.
Chosen was life-changing for the whole family. Because of the budgetary impact of the kinship adoption process, Michael and Jessica even qualified for a program scholarship from Chosen.
“I never thought we would be where we are now. By the end of the school year, BRODY was a model student and the highest achiever in his class.”
Thanks to Chosen, their teen son, Jackson, learned how to recognize the effects of trauma on Brody and recognize Brody’s way of showing love and affection. Jackson became Brody’s rock and was the first person to bond with Brody.
The assessments and coaching that Chosen provided helped Michael address his own unhealed trauma and become a better parent to Brody.
“Trauma training helped me realize unresolved trauma. Training made me think about how I say things and what I can do.”
“Chosen is helping us think differently. Our Care Manager gave us the tools so we could handle things ourselves. We felt safe with our Care Manager. We could tell her what happened and feel supported.”
Chosen even prepared Michael and Jessica for the future, “we did not know how to tell our son his story, that was hard. Chosen helped!” Their Chosen Care Manager provided guidance for the time when Brody gets older and starts to ask more questions about his history. Jessica and Michael are comforted by knowing they can go back to Chosen when issues arise.
*Names have been changed.
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