Smiling Eyes

When Tate first arrived at Cunningham, I couldn't help but focus on his angry eyes. But that's all changed. The first thing I notice now is his big grin. 

Tate's case manager recalls a 12 year old boy arriving at Cunningham Children's Home with a lack of trust, loads of anger, and invisible walls meant to separate himself from everyone else. Creating barriers was a coping mechanism that Tate knew how to use well. 

As an infant, Tate was removed from his parents' care because of his father's mental health issues and his mother's addiction. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome which caused developmental delays, including the inability to control his moods. Because he could not verbalize his thoughts and emotions, Tate would often use head banging to soothe himself. 

"When he arrived at Cunningham, we sometimes felt like we needed to be mind readers," said Tate's therapist. Tate responded well to the therapeutic care plan created by staff. His therapist and case worker helped him express how he was feeling. His team came up with a coping mechanism that allowed him to share non-verbally what he needed. If he held up five fingers, "that meant he needed five minutes to himself. Ten fingers, meant 10 minutes," explained his therapist.

This exercise would allow us to catch him before he escalated into "angry eyes," added his case manager.

The staff gave Tate the space he needed; "grounding him" so he could refocus. This was accomplished by teaching him different breathing exercises and speaking with quiet, nurturing tones rather than loud and directive commands. He responded positively to these coping mechanisms. 

Over the next several months, Tate consistently chose to change his behaviors which allowed him to step down from a residential setting into foster care. 

Earlier this year, Tate was placed with his foster family. It was one of the most remarkable matches of all time. He's now in the right home, with the right family. He has a family that surrounds him with patience and love. Both his therapist and case manager are encouraged with Tate's progress.

Tate made some good friends while he was at Cunningham. "Once you broke into his shell and got into his heart, you could tell he loved 'his people.' He wants to maintain our relationships and longs to keep connected to his us," said his case manager.

Tate's dark brown eyes are now full of life, love and hope.

Hope begins here. Hope begins with you.