"He's made great progress in coping and self-regulation. The staff always saw this potential in him. He just needed to see it in himself," said Melissa Breen, a case worker at Cunningham's Gerber School. Her comments came as she called 14-year-old Jessie to the stage to receive the Social Work Award during the school's annual award assembly.
Jessie is in a great place emotionally and behaviorally, but during his time at Cunningham Children's Home, he's had some major ups and downs.
During his first year, Jessie wanted to get back home to his mom so he focused on healing and learning. He willingly worked with Cunningham staff, exceeding their expectations. Jessie was so successful that he was able to attend public school full time.
But as he turned 13, Jessie noticed that even though he made improvements, the visitation time with his mom remained the same - brief, supervised visits once a week. He discovered that his mom was not doing the work she needed in order to facilitate a permanent reunion.
This was a disappointment to Jessie. It wasn't part of his plan and as a result he reacted. Jessie abandoned his coping techniques, made erratic decisions, and chose instant gratification over long term goals. Instead of staying in school, he kept running away.
Cunningham staff continued to seek him out, showed him unconditional love, and helped him understand how his choices were impacting his future. He could get angry or he could get better.
Jessie chose to get back on track! He has made remarkable changes during the last year, which is why school staff recognized him during the awards assembly. As he has matured, Jessie has realized he can't change anyone but himself, and he has found new motivation. He has realized the work he's doing at Cunningham is for himself.
*All names are changed and images are selected to protect the privacy of our youth.